Chronic headaches suck. Having to go to bed with a headache sets the table for a poor night’s sleep, which can make matters worse upon waking, setting the tone for an even tougher day ahead. This is especially true when your job has you dealing with noise, performing complex cognitive tasks, and/or staring at digital screens for hours on end. You’re not alone in this, as 15 percent of the population suffers from chronic (vs episodic) headaches. While the condition impacts every person in a different way, there is no question that it has a direct and debilitating effect on an individual and their ability to function in social and professional settings alike.
Walking around with a bottle of ibuprofen or acetaminophen in your purse, pocket, bag or backpack isn’t the answer. Instead, physiotherapy can deliver the relief you need so that your life can return to normal. Let’s find out how.
5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Physiotherapy for Your Chronic Headache Concerns
The Importance of Differentiating Between Chronic Headaches and Chronic Migraines
By definition, chronic headaches (or chronic daily headaches) is a descriptive term applied to those who suffer headaches on more days per month than not. A chronic migraine, is defined by more than fifteen headache days per month (over a three month period) of which more than eight are migrainous. A migraine, is an intense headache characterized by throbbing that typically affects one side of the head and is frequently accompanied by nausea and even disturbed vision.
A physiotherapy clinic with a chiropractor on staff can help make a very clear distinction between chronic headaches (CH) and chronic migraines (CM). This is essential because data shows that over 20 percent of Canadian CM sufferers are misdiagnosed, rendering them without effective treatment. That misdiagnoses can lead to missed work (or school) and ultimately a reduced ability to generate income. CM sufferers are also twice as likely to be affected by depression or anxiety.
While physical and chiropractic therapy can applied to both, defining which chronic condition you are suffering from will better dictate the proper course of treatment. No regime should begin without this diagnosis.
Chiropractic Treatment for Chronic Headaches and Migraines
When most people hear chiropractic, they associate it as a treatment for neck and back pain. And it is, but issues in the neck and/or back could be the cause of your persistent headaches or migraines. There’s a good chance that your CH/CM originates from the neck and spine. Chiropractor based spinal manipulation can be a very effective treatment option for this, in addition to tension driven headaches. Learn more about why you should see a chiropractor for headache treatment.
A Physiotherapist Can Help ID Other Headache Triggers
Having seen numerous patients for CH/CM concerns, a reputable physiotherapy clinic will have become proficient in identifying common headache triggers and can therefore provide guidance on what to recognize, correct, and avoid, wherever possible. Common triggers include (but are not exclusive to) the following:
- Poor sitting posture and ergonomics
- Poor walking/standing posture
- Repetitive strain injury (even text neck)
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Poor nutrition
- Anxiety and stress (view more)
- Improper breathing (see apical breathing)
- Other activities
Once these triggers are identified, a physiotherapist can provide guidance on proper posture, and prescribe a regime that includes head and neck range-of-motion exercises, low impact aerobics, and stretching, all of which can be applied throughout the day to break up receptive and mundane activities (i.e. sitting at a desk) that could be contributing to your chronic headaches/migraines. Other clinic provided solutions for headaches include trigger point therapy and manual therapy.
A physiotherapy clinic that counts a nutritionist on staff can also provide input on foods that will help keep your Vitamin-B and magnesium (studies suggest magnesium may help prevent headaches) levels up through the day.
If your headaches are the result of bruxism (teeth grinding) a physiotherapist can help identify this, at which point you can schedule a visit with a dental clinic offering bruxism treatment.
Lastly, it should be noted that “flat feet” can contribute to headaches. This less optimal manner of walking can result in poor posture which as you now know, can directly lead to headaches. A gait analysis will be conducted, and if necessary, custom orthotics will be prescribed to correct your manner of walking and ultimately help alleviate your headaches.
An Alternative to Prescription Drugs and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse has been reported frequently in chronic headache sufferers. The current system of throwing pills at patients to solve chronic headaches/migraines is one that can lead to a MUCH bigger health problem. Trading headaches for opioids (OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, etc.) is certainly not the solution. If you’re concerned (you should be) about the longterm impact that prescription drugs can have on your health and wellness, see a physiotherapist before you step foot near the counter of your local pharmacy.
An Important Part of Women’s Health
Statistics Canada reports that females were more than twice as likely as males to report migraines and make up 84 percent of Canadians reporting migraine headaches. One of the biggest culprits for this, is hormones and the changes in estrogen levels that can act as a trigger to a protective response from the brain. This is why it is common for women to experience severe headaches and migraines prior to menstruation, when estrogen levels take a dip. The hormone levels shift again during prenatal and postnatal periods, perimenopause, and menopause. Can a woman get a break or what? Yes, by making women’s physiotherapy a part of your life. This is an all-encompassing women’s health treatment plan that includes a wide variety of services, including headache and migraine management.
If you’re tired of suffering from chronic headaches and/or migraines and you reside in the Greater Vancouver area, schedule a consolation at our Burnaby clinic today.