You know the feeling – the sudden pain that tells you a headache is coming on. It happens to all of us. Stress headaches are typically defined as a “band of pressure” that can be felt around your head, usually accompanied by tenderness of the skull and overall achiness within the head. Sometimes, the pain can be alleviated with over-the-counter medication, such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Advil. However, sometimes stress headaches persist despite pain-management drugs, especially if you are prone to chronic headaches.
Luckily, physical therapy has been known to help alleviate stress-related headaches, in even the most chronic cases. Methods such as manual therapy, posture correction, and relaxation techniques will help relieve your pain and decrease your likelihood of having more headaches in the future. For more information on how we can help you say goodbye to those persistent stress-related headaches, contact Insight Rehab today!
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Strengthen Your Muscles
The human head is heavy! You do a lot of “heavy lifting” throughout the day with your shoulders, back, and neck to hold your head up! Even when you are simply carrying out daily tasks, if the muscles in those areas are too weak, they can easily get overworked just keeping you upright. Physical therapy work on neck and upper back muscles involves resistance training, in order to build up and strengthen these muscles.
For many people, stronger upper body muscles also equate to fewer – and less intense – stress-related headaches. Exercises might start with simple chin-to-chest nods to build neck strength, and may become more intensive as your treatment plan progresses. Free weights and resistance bands also help to build up shoulder and back muscles.
Correcting Your Posture
It is no secret that the ways in which we stand and sit can greatly influence how much pressure is put on our muscles. Poor posture compresses muscles and nerves, and for many people, these overworked muscles and nerves in the shoulder, chest, and neck area can trigger a tension headache.
Your physical therapist can help evaluate your posture for areas that may need improvement. He or she will also demonstrate the correct way to move, sit, and stand in order to avoid unwanted compression.
In addition to demonstrating chest, back, and shoulder positions, a physical therapist can also recommend helpful lifestyle changes. Modifications to certain areas in the home and workplace often have a big effect on posture. This might include a telephone headset, a raised computer monitor, a specialized chair, or even a rubber mat to stand on while doing kitchen tasks. Learn more about Ergonomics here.
Improve Your Flexibility
The more that you are able to move your neck and shoulders as you move throughout your day, the less pressure you put on the major muscle groups in those areas. This may also alleviate some of your undesirable stress-related headache symptoms. By participating in physical therapy treatments, you will learn specific moves to stretch your neck, in addition to loosening up your chest, shoulder muscle, and tendon groups. Doing these stretches regularly can help relieve chronic stress headaches.
A Hands-On Approach to Headaches
There are some headache prevention techniques that are simple enough to do at home. For example, alternating between ice and heat therapies is a simple but effective strategy. So is using a TENS machine. However, a skilled physical therapist can provide a much more targeted approach to treating the symptoms of a headache. Specialized hands-on techniques to relieve tension in the connective and soft tissues of your neck and shoulder muscles can provide soothing relief, in addition to easing muscle strain.
Manual therapy may include muscle energy techniques, myofascial release, neural tissue tension release, craniosacral techniques, visceral mobilization, and joint mobilization. These soft tissue techniques relax tense muscles and ease tension in the nerves. Because of this effect, manual therapy can provide immediate pain relief and can even prevent future headaches. Manual physical therapy treatments help to relax the muscles in your jaw, temples, neck, and shoulders, in order to lessen your symptoms.
Patients with chronic tension headaches report decreased incidents of head pain when undergoing regular physical therapy. It is believed that relaxing the muscles in and around the head helps in preventing the contractions that result in pain. Physical therapy also helps ease the emotional stress that causes you to tense those trigger points in your head and neck. People who get regular physical therapy report getting better rest, which leads to less stress during the day, and therefore a lowered likelihood of sustaining a stress-related headache.
Are your stress-related headaches limiting your life? If so, contact Insight Rehab to schedule a consultation today! Our dedicated physical therapists will create a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs, in order to help you relax, sleep better, and fight off those debilitating headaches. We can help decrease the frequency and severity of your chronic headaches, and in many cases, our methods relieve them altogether. If you are ready to say goodbye to your headaches, contact us today!
Furto, Eric S., and Kimberly Miczak. (2020.) Physical Therapy Guide to Headaches. Choose PT. <https://www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/physical-therapy-guide-to-headaches>. Created: September 20, 2011. Revised: September 16, 2020. Last Reviewed: September 16, 2020.
Mayo Clinic. (2020.) Headaches: Reduce Stress to Prevent the Pain. August 12, 2020. <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/in-depth/headaches/art-20046707>.