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STRESS RELATED HEADACHES AND HOW PHYSICAL THERAPY CAN HELP

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Whether we are working from home or in an office setting, for sure, you will experience headaches along the way. Both physical and emotional stress can cause tension headaches; they can also trigger migraine headaches and cervicogenic headaches which are all very weakening. Some may struggle with chronic or recurring headaches and it can be bothersome, to be honest, especially when you need to take analgesics all the time to treat the pain. But the good news is that you don’t really have to rely on pain killers. You can find better treatments and management through Physical Therapy. How? Physical therapy can treat the underlying causes, giving you a safer and more sustainable headache management strategy.

Medically speaking, emotional stress and physical stress are closely linked together. potential crises can cause muscles to tighten up as the body undergoes what we call a “fight or flight” mode. That tightness affects small muscles at the base of the skull and pulls a pain-sensitive membrane in the head-0the dura mater. The dura mater responds by sending out waves of pain, giving you a classic tension headache. Cervicogenic headaches also originate in the neck area. It is often caused by alignment problems or imbalances in the cervical spine. These imbalances cause the neck muscles physical stress and produce neck pain and headaches. Being emotionally stress can also cause cervicogenic headaches. Now migraines are a different kind of pain. A migraine attack may go far beyond the crushing headache it is notorious for producing, causing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, dizziness, sound and light sensitivity, and auras (visual distortions).

Physical Therapy Can Help

Pain killers can alleviate headaches, that is true. However, they can’t address the stresses that lead to chronic headaches, what you need is Physical Therapy. Physica therapists would always conduct a thorough evaluation that includes neck and cervical spine examinations. They would also include history taking and discussion of your symptoms, analysis of your lifestyle factors that play an important role in the source of your stress. All these will help your PT to design a specific headache management program for you. Some of the programs may include:

  • Manual therapy to relax a tight neck

Your physical therapist will know how to give a more targeted approach to your stress-related headache pain. They will be switching between hot and cold compresses is a very simple but effective strategy that they commonly use. These kinds of compresses can be used along with gentle electronic pulse wands if needed to soothe muscles and ease the strain.

Manual therapy can also include targeted massage therapy to treat your headaches. Soft tissue mobilization helps to relax tense muscles, and massage can provide immediate relief. Patients with chronic headaches report a decrease in overall pain after receiving manual therapy. They also experience headaches less frequently.

  • Ergonomic adjustments

Poor posture can compress your muscles and nerves in the shoulder, chest, and neck areas. You won’t feel the effect at first but having that habit of poor posture will cause more problems. These are the areas that trigger painful tension headaches, so it’s important to make sure you’re checking your posture often and sitting up straight if you’re at a desk and working. Some set their alarms to serve as a reminder for them to check their postures.

Your physical therapist will demonstrate to you the proper ways to move, stand, and sit. They will also be able to evaluate your posture and show you how you can improve it to place less stress on your overworked muscles.

Other therapies that you might get are dry needling to ease stress-induced tension and pain, exercises to limber up your neck, suggestions for changing or sleep position or trying a different kind of pillow, and Yoga to help you add more serenity to your daily life.

The goal of physical therapy for chronic headaches is to improve neck mobility, improve strength, improves posture, and reduces stress. All of these would be addressed and managed by your Physical Therapists. If you want lasting effects to manage your headaches, contact us at Arise Physical Therapy today!


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