There are six common kinds of headache. It may not be common practice for a physiotherapy practice to see headache clients, but we have non-drug, effective treatment options for most types of headache.
Our collaborative care team at Avalon Laser Health Physiotherapy and Wellness Physiotherapy and Wellness offers physiotherapy, massage therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture and nurse practitioner services, any or all to help you manage headache
What kind of headache do you have?
- Cervicogenic (referred from muscles and joints of the neck) headache is most frequently felt at the base of the head or top of the head, and may even mimic the pain of a migraine headache. It often follows trauma, such as whiplash injuries; but can also relate to sustained poor head and neck postures.
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) injury and dysfunction commonly causes pain in the region of the jaw and ear, and may be associated with the sensation of ringing in the ear. There may be clicking or popping, as well as limited and painful jaw opening and tenderness over the TMJ joint. It is sometimes misdiagnosed as a tension headache.
- Tension headaches are described as dull, aching, pressure-like, squeezing and often in a band-like distribution. The cause of these headaches is unknown, but it is believed that stress, jaw clenching, teeth grinding and other circumstances that sensitize brain function may contribute to the muscle tension and/or spasm. These headaches tend to be episodic, and are very variable in intensity, frequency and duration. They may become chronic, and can last weeks to months.
- Concussion and traumatic brain injury. These headaches always follow trauma and a direct blow to the head. While they all should receive emergency and follow-up medical investigation and care, we can offer effective care for the subsequent management of many of these injuries.
- Sinusitis is a pretty common cause of headache, which can be misdiagnosed as migraine headache. The usual cause of sinusitis is infection or inflammation within the sinus cavities. It is reported to be experienced by 10% to 30% of the population on average once per year. The pain is felt behind the cheeks and/or forehead, and is described as dull, deep, aching, and can increase with bending forward. This is not a natural referral to a physiotherapy clinic; and we would recommend an initial consult with our Nurse Practitioner.
- Cluster Headaches and Migraine headaches. The causes of these headaches are unknown, but are thought to be hormonal or circulatory. We do not have experience treating these headaches, although there is Laser research to indicate effectiveness, at least for some migraine presentations. Our Nurse Practitioner is a good resource for consultation.
Within our clinic, clients who present with complaints of headache most frequently have cervicogenic pain, caused by trauma or dysfunction of the neck. Poor posture is perhaps the most often cause of dysfunction, as well as the sneakiest. Sneaky, because the pain seems to come from nowhere, and it can be hard to appreciate that the most common activities, such as texting, in fact precipitated the pain. Sneaky because there may have been a sudden start to pain, interpreted as an injury, with or without trauma, which has the effect of masking the role of poor posture or muscle imbalance.
The next most common cause in our clinic is related to temporomandibular (TMJ) dysfunction. In practice, TMJ and neck dysfunction are so entwined they really reflect a common source. When we assess our headache and neck pain clients, we can see the poor alignment and muscle imbalances which cause pain. We cannot see, but can screen for the elevated stress and anxiety that so often complicate recovery. The multiple facets which contribute to headache require the insight and skills of multiple practitioners to well treat headache, TMJ and neck pain.
An emerging treatment for concussion and head trauma is low intensity laser or photobiomodulation (PBMT). Within our clinic, we have observed the powerful contribution laser or PBMT provides post motor vehicle accidents (MVA) clients who have sustained neck and mild head trauma injuries. In addition to the pain relief and accelerated healing effect associated with direct stimulation of injured cells, many of our clients report improved quality of sleep. In our estimation, a benefit often not appreciated, is the ability of the laser to minimize scar formation, which may be one cause of chronic pain following whiplash.
Restoring normal posture and alignment may seem to lose significance when pain subsides, but it is the part of your treatment plan considered most critical to us. How many times do we hear of clients not so happy with treatment...They express delight as pain recedes with early treatment and some will stop treatment altogether when their pain lessens to a point which they consider bearable. Not only is healing incomplete at his stage, the subliminal but persistent strain of poor mechanics will quickly recreate the problem. So, they deem treatment to be a failure… Please, please, look at the long game and your future health, and complete your treatment plan.