How is Physiotherapy beneficial for tension headaches?
Headaches 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. Most people naturally turn to painkillers to treat them, but could Physiotherapy provide a drug-free answer?
What are tension headaches?
These are the most common type of headache and what most people think of as “everyday” headaches. Tension headaches affect half of the population at least 2-3 times a month and some people can be affected up to 15 times a month.
These headaches present as a tight band at the front, back or side of the head. They usually last between 30 minutes to several hours but they can last several days.
What causes tension headaches?
There are many factors that can contribute to developing a tension headache and will vary between individuals. These can include:
- Stress and Anxiety
- Poor Posture
- Missing meals
- Bright sunlight
If you experience frequent tension headaches, keeping a diary can be beneficial to try to identify what could be triggering them.
How can I ease a tension headache?
Tension headaches may be eased through some simple lifestyle changes:
- Keep hydrated and have regular balanced meals
- Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Avoid sustained sitting postures
- Adopt a correct sitting posture (see diagram below)
- 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?
As noted above many of the triggers for tension headaches and ways in which they are relieved are linked to posture. Physiotherapy can therefore help treat and prevent tension headaches by:
- Addressing postural imbalances
- Providing a strengthening program for weak muscles
- Providing stretches for tight muscles
- Massage and soft tissue release for tight muscles
- Joint mobilisation for stiffness in neck
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).
Recent patient, Beverley Landless said “I was referred to Physiotherapy Matters suffering with whiplash and headaches. Initially I struggled to move my head and my headaches were affecting my vision and sleep. I was offered hands-on treatment with home exercises and advice on how to improve my posture. I now feel 100% and after only 3 or 4 sessions my headaches resolved. The pain was so severe initially that I was unable to attend the bingo, but thankfully I’m now back to being able to go regularly.”