How is Physiotherapy beneficial for tension headaches?
April 28, 2022
Updated 28th April 2022Headaches affect over 10 million people regularly in the UK, making them one of the most common health complaints. Although they can negatively impact on work, social and family life, headaches themselves are rarely serious. This blog looks at tension type headaches and discusses how Physiotherapy may provide a drug-free solution.
What are tension type headaches?
Tension type headaches are a primary headache disorder meaning they are not associated with another underlying condition. They are generally characterised as mild to moderate in intensity, tend to feel like a generalised pressure or tightness around the front, side or back of the head and can often spread into or arise from the neck.
With up to 78% of us estimated to experience them in our lifetime these are the most common type of headache and what most people think of as “everyday” headaches. They vary in frequency and can last anywhere between 30 minutes up to 7 days.
What causes tension type headaches?
The exact causes of tension type headaches is unknown but there are many factors that are thought to contribute to developing a tension type headache and will vary between individuals. These can include:
- Stress and Anxiety
- Poor Posture
- Missing meals
- Bright sunlight
- Caffeine and Alcohol excess
If you experience frequent tension type headaches, keeping a diary can be beneficial to try to identify what could be triggering them and can help you make changes to reduce them.
How can I ease a tension headache?
Headaches may be eased through some simple lifestyle changes:
- Keep hydrated and have regular balanced meals
- Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Avoid sustained sitting postures
- Adopt a correct sitting posture (particularly when working at a desk)
- Have your eyes tested regularly
- Avoid bright sunlight or reflection on your screen
- Ensure your work environment is not too loud
How can Physiotherapy help treat tension headaches?
Tension type headaches can co-exist with other headache disorders so if you are unsure about the nature of your headaches a thorough assessment to rule out other possible causes of your headaches may be key to the management of them. As noted above, many of the triggers for tension headaches and ways in which they are relieved are linked to postural positions and work environment. Sitting for prolonged periods in any posture can begin to cause issues, but there is a correlation between poor neck posture and tension type headaches. A forward head posture can cause muscle tightness and imbalances that can contribute to your headaches, physiotherapy can therefore help treat and prevent tension type headaches by:
- Addressing these postural imbalances
- Providing a strengthening program for weaker muscles
- Providing stretches for tight muscles
- Massage and soft tissue release for tight muscles
- Joint mobilisation for stiffness in neck
- DSE workstation assessment or advice
Physiotherapists may also be able to offer a course of acupuncture. Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over a 5-8 week period may be beneficial in preventing chronic tension-type headaches (https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg150).
If you are suffering with headaches and have tried some of our self-help advice but would like some more information or to speak to one of our physios, call us on 0333 2200 238