With over 200 types of headaches and migraines now classified, research has shown that different headache and migraine conditions may share a common disorder e.g. they are not seperate conditions.
So if we can effectively learn to treat headaches by influencing that common thread that defines them, that means we may be able to have an effect across the entire range of headaches that exist.
A physio named Dean Watson has shown a particular interest in finding a way to do this, and through many years of practice and research he has discovered that temporary reproduction of accustomed head pain occurred in 100% of those with tension headache and 94% of those with migraine, when examining joint mobility in the upper neck segments.
Headaches coming from the neck have now been termed as “cervicogenic”. Knowing we can reproduce symptoms in 94-100% of headaches, this opens the possibility that in treating these common symptoms we may be able to effectively treat most, if not all, headaches that are truely cervicogenic.
Through research, Dean and his associates has found the key features of a cervicogenic headache to be:
- Experience of head or neck trauma
- History of a “trigger” e.g. sustained neck postures, stress, poor sleeping positions
- Gradual increase in headache frequency and intensity over time
- Neck stiffness, discomfort, and pain
- Symptoms can be one sided or switch sides
- Ability to reproduce the accustomed head pain, or headache, with manual techniques, and that these symptoms resolve or ease as the technique is maintained
Through pressure on deep tissue utilising techniques such as manual therapy (“trigger point release” and joint mobilisation) and/or needling, we aim to reproduce the headache during treatment. As the technique is sustained, the sensitivity of the headache symptoms should begin to ease.
We believe this occurs through several mechanisms such as inhibition of neurological input, biomechanical remodelling, and perhaps through the restoration of joint mobility and joint play. What we DO know is that by reproducing your headache, perhaps even temporarily making it worse, we expect an alleviation of your overall headache symptoms either instantaneously, or over the coming days. This may take several sessions, always leveraging off the effects from the last, but generally there is a noticeable change as soon as you start treatment, provided your physio has been able to correctly identify the areas causing your headache.
Ideally this is followed up by addressing the cause of your headache; if postural, managing those loads with education and advice and/or giving an appropriate home program to shift those loads, correction of sleeping postures and prescription of appropriate pillows, correction of workplace set up and so forth. Our aim is to treat the symptoms, but also to identify and correct the cause.
Do you experience headaches or migraines? Come see one of our physios today to see if we can help. Book online now, call us on 02 4929 3898 or email email@example.com
Watson, D. H., Drummond, P. D. (2014) cervical referral of head pain in migraines: effects on the Nociceptice Blink Reflex. Headache (54) pp 1035-1045.