There are many causes of headaches, some of which are harmless and some may be life-threatening. Broadly these can be classified as primary headaches and secondary headaches.
Primary headaches are benign, recurrent headaches which are not caused by underlying disease processes. The most common form of this is migraine or headache from a cold or excess alcohol.
Secondary headaches however develop as a secondary symptom to an underlying disease process or anatomical structure. Examples of this include infection, head injury, tumor or cervicogenic headache.
A physiotherapist's role in headache care is to differentiate the likely cause of headache through thorough questioning and examination, and then refer to the correct health professional or attempt to treat the headaches if appropriate. The cervical spine (neck) tissues share common nerve structures to other parts of the head and can refer pain into the head causing secondary headaches. If these are thought to be responsible for a headache then treatment of these structures with manual therapy and exercise may help in the management of reducing cervicogenic headache.
In relation to cervicogenic headaches, research has demonstrated that physiotherapy for 6 weeks comprising both exercise and manual therapy in addition to a combined approach of the 2 interventions can significantly reduce headache frequency, intensity and neck pain 6 weeks of treatment. We also have clinicians trained in the Watson Headache technique in order to assess the upper neck and treat with manual therapy.
For more info click here to check out our blog on headaches.