Headaches are a common complaint. There are not many of us that are lucky enough to never have experienced one. Certainly on a personal note migraine headaches have, in the past, ruled my life. There were many darker days with them when I felt it would be easier to have my head removed than to suffer another one. Whilst training to be an osteopath I would read about brain tumours, meningitis and the likes and be 100% convinced that I had something more than migraine, going on in my head. Even after brain scans, trips to neurologists and the likes and with endless medications and therapies, headaches were still a constant presence in my life. A mix of sinus, migraine, tension and hypermobility was diagnosed as the cause of them. Typical of me to not be happy to have just one underlying issue to remedy, but this is often the pure nature of headaches. They tend to be multi-faceted.
When a patient attends the practice to see me regarding headaches and is after me ‘fixing’ them, I have every empathy for the journey they may have been through in order to conquer their headaches. The last resort of which is generally to see me or my colleagues when a friend has told them I treated their neck and their headaches seemed to get better as a side effect to this. They of course want the same result.
I tend to start off by explaining that there are many different causes for headaches, but reassuring that only a very tiny proportion of those causes will be from brain tumours and the more sinister causes. This is often the main worry to the chronic headache sufferer.
Migraines, I personally then put in a league of their own. The cause for migraines are many and varied from hormones, to food, drink, environmental factors, stress, tiredness and so the list goes on. Sometimes migraine sufferers may benefit from treatment, if a component of their symptoms are related to the neck, stress and tension.
Then we have the tension type headache. This is by far the most common type of headache. It is often said to be like a tight band around the head, often covering the eyes too. It can build up over time and can last weeks or even months when untreated. The causes is often a build- up of tension from trauma, poor posture, stress, depression, jaw issues etc.
Another type of headache is a cerviogenic headache, which starts in the neck, possibly from for example wear of the neck joints. The pain then spreads from the neck to the head. Patients with this type will often complain of neck symptoms with the headache and will sometimes relate the two things together.
If the headache has origins in the neck, the muscles of the neck, head or jaw, then osteopathy may help. The role I play as an osteopath is to reduce the tension in the muscles and improve the function of the joints. I also tend to prescribe exercises to reduce this tension and may advise on postural changes, stress management or lifestyle changes that I feel may benefit the client.
For me, osteopathy, massage and acupuncture have all helped to lessen my headaches. I would not say that my life is free from them, but certainly I have my life back with these treatments and it has meant that I no longer take most of the medications prescribed to m