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Physiotherapy for tension-related headaches

Tension-related headaches are normally a problem caused by multiple factors including some dietary factors, hydration and physical factors

Some common physical factors can include:

  • Poor computer ergonomics
  • Long, static working positions
  • Stiffness to the upper spine
  • Poor fitness and strength to the upper spine and shoulders

The effect of these physical factors may be amplified further by psychological stress, as this may increase the tension in the neck and shoulder muscles.

Due to the multitude of factors involved in causing tension-related headaches our expert physiotherapists will conduct a holistic examination of the problem.

At the initial examination, a full and comprehensive history will be conducted, which will help to set a possible problem list for each individual.

This will include an analysis of any desk/ computer setup which will include analysing the height, angle and distances of the seat, desk and screen. It may also analyse whether any previous injuries or existing upper spine/neck or shoulder muscle pains may be contributing to the headaches.

The physical examination will test the upper spine, neck and shoulder range of motion and look for any restrictions to the movements.

It will also assess in more detail any postures to these body areas which can be improved.

If it is indicated, our physiotherapists will palpate the spinal segments in the upper neck to assess whether this may reproduce any headache symptoms.

Physiotherapy treatments for tension-related headaches will be determined by the exact causes identified in the history and physical examination.

If there is significant spinal stiffness, our expert physiotherapists may employ mobilisations and manipulations and prescribe home stretches to improve flexibility.

If there is significant stiffness or tension in the shoulder and neck muscles which may be contributing to the headaches, then soft tissue muscle release techniques and self-release techniques may be administered.

Stability and strength around the neck and shoulder girdles may also contribute to improving posture and tension in the upper spine and neck, and our expert physiotherapists are able to prescribe an individual exercise programs to help with this problem.

If tension-related headaches are the result of a short-term period of increasing working hours in static positions or psychological stress, then once these factors have reduced, physiotherapy may be able to help relieve symptoms very rapidly.

If there are ongoing lifestyle factors then physiotherapy will still help, but in longer term cases complete resolution may take a period of several weeks or months.