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Headaches | Physiotherapy Can Help


Headaches can be a painful and debilitating condition for many people. If you have experienced a headache before, you are in good company as the chances of experiencing a headache during your lifetime is 96%! Headaches cause over 100,000 work absences daily at an annual cost to the economy of over £1.5 billion. There are hundreds of variants of headache which can make management of this condition challenging. Fear not, if you have headaches – physiotherapy can help! 

You will probably be familiar with the terms migraine, cluster headaches and tension type headaches. These are known as primary headaches, which means, there is no underlying concerning cause for your head pain or symptoms. Secondary headaches are the result of an alternative cause, for example, referred pain from your neck.

With all headaches physiotherapy can help. From expert assessment and diagnosis to ‘hands on’ therapy and management strategies, physios are ideally placed to help manage headaches.

What causes headaches?

There can be so many causes of headaches, anything from food intolerances and hormonal changes to stress and poor posture. It is important to discuss your headaches thoroughly with your physio. Often patients will consider their headaches as vague or random as there is no clear pattern to their symptoms. It is helpful to complete a symptom dairy prior to your consultation as it will help to paint a picture of your triggers and what helps to relieve your symptoms.

Headaches – physiotherapy can help

Physiotherapy can help headaches! Treatment of stiffness and tension in the joints and muscles has been shown help with migraines and tension type headaches and reduce the need for medication. If your headaches are originating from your neck (cervicogenic headaches), this is where physiotherapy can really excel.

The treatment of any headache commences with an expert assessment and differential diagnosis of the source of your symptoms. From this point there are lots of treatments your physiotherapist can offer. Here at The Physios, we are manual therapy advocates and will incorporate ‘hands on’ manual and manipulative therapy to your treatment. We will also work on stretching and massaging the muscles around your neck and will suggest some management exercises.

It is also important to consider the treatment of your headaches as a team. We can liaise with your GP to discuss the diagnosis and request medication, we will encourage physical exercise and can offer in-house personal training. In addition we may draw on the expertise of our extended team, such as, acupuncture or massage therapy. In some cases we may have to liaise with your dentist as bruxism or jaw (TMJ) pain can exacerbate headache symptoms.

Exercises for headache

Exercises specifically for headaches focus on the deep neck flexors. Conditioning these essential muscles helps to improve your posture and reeducate the optimum position for your head and neck. Please note you should only commence these exercises following consultation with your physiotherapist.

Johnny Cassidy is Clinical Director and has been a manual/manipulative therapist for many years. He has a keen interest in treatment of the neck pain and headaches.

The Physios Sheffield started over 30 years ago, since when it has enjoyed a growing reputation among doctors and patients for providing skilled physiotherapy treatment by experienced clinicians. Our clinic next to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital ensure our services were easily accessible for all. It’s our experience that makes us different – years of ‘hands-on’ treatment and further training gives us reason to be confident that we can provide the specialist care you need