The World Health Organization states that headaches are now considered the most common complication associated with the nervous system. At least half of world’s population experience at least one headache annually. It only makes sense for physical therapists to create a program in their practice that addresses this issue. Let’s discuss this possibility for your practice.

woman with headache

Common Headache Causes

Most headaches are attributed to stress, lack of the proper amount of sleep, and even withdrawal from certain substances – such as caffeine; however, there are several other causes that contribute to the development of headaches.

As a physical therapist, your practice can effectively evaluate those that suffer from headaches and treat the underlying causes in many.

The most common types of headaches that you may help your patients with include tension headaches, those that have cervicogenic causes, and headaches that originate from the jaw with TMJ.

The causes of these types of headaches include improper posture, muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and unusual levels of stress on various components of the body.

man with headache

Tension Headaches

According to research conducted on headache sufferers, tension headaches are the most commonly experienced as they account for 90% of all discomfort. This type of headache is identified by pain that is present on both sides of the head, pressure and/or squeezing sensations, and tightness in the head and the neck region.

These are often caused by poor posture, inadequate sleep, strain on the eyes, stress, overexertion of the body, and low blood sugar levels.

As a physical therapist, you can help identify the triggers associated with the tension headaches experienced by your patients, aid in the optimization of body mechanics, improve strength, and aid in correcting posture issues.

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are those that are caused by the joints, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and/or the discs that are within the neck. In most instances, these types of headaches stem from postural strain, unusual neck movements, holding certain positions for long periods of time, and/or a trauma, such as whiplash. These headaches are characteristic by the presence of pain on one side of the head and the extension of that pain to the forehead or above the ear.

As a physical therapist, you can help patients with these types of headaches by improving their range of motion, having them perform exercises that alleviate any type of nerve compression, and by providing tips on how to reduce the pain experienced.

jaw pain

TMJ Headaches

Headaches that stem from the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) creates pain around the cheeks, the chin, and/or the temples. Patients may experience popping sounds, the jaw becoming caught or stuck, and/or clicking sensations.

As a physical therapist, you may assess the patient’s movements of the jaws and the muscles that surround the area. If you find that this joint is responsible for the headache, you may then provide steps and exercises that will help correct issues of the area; therefore, reducing the headaches.

By creating a program in your physical therapy practice that helps headache sufferers, you are opening up the possibility of a new stream of clients. You may help by teaching how to achieve proper posture, improving the patient’s overall range of motion, building strength in the neck, back, and surrounding regions, encouraging proper hydration, teaching stress reduction techniques, and other good habits.

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