Headaches will affect most people at some stage of their life. There are a number of different reasons for a headache to occur, for example:
The most common type of headache that we treat at Beyond is the neck and jaw related headache. When structures in the neck and jaw are inflamed, injured, or tight it can refer pain into the head or even behind the eyeball. An osteopathic or myotherapy treatment may help alleviate the headache symptoms by addressing the underlying dysfunction.
Hormonal headaches tend to occur in women pre-menstrually or during menopause, due to fluctuations in the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body. These headaches can last 2-3 days, and are quite exhausting, as they may not be relieved by analgesic medications.
Neck problems can lead to headaches due to inflammation and irritation of the muscles, ligaments and nerves in the affected area, which refer pain into the base of the skull, temple or forehead. Neck pain and headaches are one of the most common reasons people seek osteopathic treatment, which aims to reduce muscle tension and inflammation, and restore joint movement using massage, mobilisation, stretching, dry needling and manipulation.
Inflammation or congestion of the sinuses in the face and head create pressure and pain that can be difficult to shift, and susceptible people tend to suffer most during the colder months and hayfever season. Gentle osteopathic treatment may help relieve this type of headache by encouraging drainage of the sinuses and thus reducing pressure.
Migraines occur due to sudden changes in the blood vessels supplying the brain. They are generally very severe and debilitating, and may last several hours to a few days, typically affecting one side of the head. Associated symptoms such as a visual aura, nausea, dizziness and sensitivity to light/smell/sound are common. Experienced migraine sufferers tend to know what ‘triggers’ their migraine eg hormones, diet, environment, so they may be able to predict or avoid them. Medication may be the most effective form of treatment, but treatment of the neck, back and jaw by an osteopath or Myotherapist may reduce the severity or duration of a migraine, and regular or ‘maintenance’ treatments may reduce the incidence of migraines in some people.
The reason that headaches arise due to dehydration is unclear, but may be due to changes to blood flow or electrolyte balance. They are obviously common in hot weather when we lose a lot of water to sweat, but air-conditioning and heating in the winter months can also dehydrate the body, so it is good to remember to drink plenty of water to prevent them.
Overuse of the muscles around the eyes due to poor vision or inadequate use of corrective lenses can lead to headaches. If you notice a headache that develops after reading, driving or watching a TV or computer screen, it may be the result of eyestrain, and should be checked by an optometrist.
High or low blood pressure can lead to headaches, and if high blood pressure in particular is the issue, a GP can assess the need for relevant medication. Your osteopath can check your blood pressure for you and will advise you whether you need to seek medical advice.
The muscles that move the jaw are closely related to the head and neck, and overuse due to grinding or clenching can lead to headaches. These may be similar to headaches related to neck pain or migraines, with pain on one side of the head, and associated dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea and facial pain. Osteopathic treatment may be effective in reducing the severity and incidence of these headaches, but severe cases may require an orthodontic splint to prevent grinding/clenching in the first place.
Tension headaches are very common, and are felt as a ‘vice-like’ or tight band around the head. They can occur in times of stress, but are also related to activity, sleep patterns, postural problems, hunger and eyestrain. Tension headaches are often relieved by analgesics or even alcohol, but relaxation and manual therapy such as Osteopathy or Myotherapy may be beneficial in long-term treatment and management.