Did you know that your physical therapist can help manage your headaches? For most patients, physical therapy can decrease or resolve the intensity, frequency, and duration of headaches. It can also improve the ease of motion in the neck, which works to improve your quality of life. Keep reading to learn more about the most common types of headaches we see and how you can use stretches and exercises to get relief from your pain.
Types of Headaches
Although there are many different types of headaches, we see our patients commonly dealing with two types of headaches: tension and cervicogenic.
With two-thirds of adults in the U.S. experiencing tension headaches, they are the most common type of headaches. They feel like dull, aching head pain and a feeling of tightness or pressure along the forehand or on the sides and back of your head. Cervicogenic headaches refer to pain that comes from a specific source in the neck and reaches the head. The reasons for a cervicogenic headache are diverse and can range from posture and movement to fractures in the upper spine or neck, a sports injury, or arthritis.
Stretches For Headache Relief
Lie on your back with your head on a flat surface. Push the back of your head into the floor and pull your chin in. You should notice a crease along the front of the neck. Then, lift your head about a half-inch off the floor, making sure to keep the crease in the front of the neck as you lift. Hold for 5 - 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times every day to increase endurance and strength.
Upper Trapezius Stretch
Place your right hand behind your back and use your left hand to guide your head so your left ear is closer to your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side for a total of three repetitions on each side. Consistently performing this stretch can help your cervical spine’s range of motion.
If you’re using a resistance band, raise your arms to a “T” position at about shoulder height. However, you can keep your arms next to your sides if a resistance band is not accessible for you. Take a breath to relax the shoulders, then squeeze your shoulder blades as if there was a pencil that you were trying to keep between them. As you’re performing this exercise, try to keep the shoulders away from the ears. This should be done three times with 10 reps in the session.
Sit up straight and tall, imagining there is a string pulling the crown of your head upwards. Then gently roll both shoulders forward 5 times. Then roll your shoulders backward 5 times. This stretch is perfect to loosen up the muscles you’ve been working with. If you have an office job, this is especially helpful in relieving the pressure you keep in your shoulders.
Habits That Can Make Headaches Worse
If you’re experiencing headaches, there are many other factors that could contribute to your pain. The most common factor is stress, which causes both tension headaches and issues with sleeping. If you can’t get to a comfortable position with your neck while you sleep, ask your physical therapist if a Mediflow Water Pillow could help you. Other reasons for chronic headaches are dehydration and not fueling your body with the necessary nutrients.
Physical Therapy For Headaches
If you’ve tried these stretches for neck pain and headaches and aren’t noticing any improvement, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. At Performance Physical Therapy, we have locations all over Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts with specialists who can help you find out what’s really causing your headaches and find relief. Contact us at 401.726.7100 to find out how physical therapy can help with your headaches and neck pain.