Headaches are a very common condition and most of us suffer from them at some stage. But headaches should never be considered normal and can lead to very painful and debilitating conditions.

At the Sussex Back Pain Clinic we regularly see three types of headache:

Migraine Headache

Migraines are caused by the release of a chemical into the brain, causing the arteries to widen and increasing the pressure within the skull. This may give symptoms such as:

  • visual disturbances
  • numbness
  • nausea/vomiting
  • severe headache

These headaches are characteristically one-sided and are thumping or throbbing in nature. They are sometimes associated with sensitivity to light, noise or smells, temporary numbness of the affected side, or loss of co-ordination and concentration.

Various triggers have been identified, most notably food sensitivities such as chocolate, sugar, orange juice, red wine, coffee, milk, yeast and artificial sweeteners. Also tiredness, stress and mechanical problems in the upper part of the neck often exacerbate migraines.

Migraine Treatment

Osteopathic treatment, alongside good advice and exercise, can be effective at dealing with the effects of migraine headaches that have been triggered by stress and neck conditions.

It can reduce the frequency and intensity and, in some cases, even stop them.

tension headache

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are often described as a tight feeling around the head and sometimes behind the eyes. Pain usually comes on slowly over a period of time but may last for weeks or months.

Tension headache symptoms can range from:

  • mild irritation
  • dizziness
  • tiredness
  • nausea
  • complete debilitation

Tension headaches are associated with increased tension in the small muscles around the base of the skull, which can affect the blood supply to, or even entrap, the nerves into the scalp. This may be caused by trauma such as a whiplash injury, poor posture, poor neck mechanics, jaw problems (TMJ) or increased stress.

Tension Headache Treatment

Osteopathic treatment with good advice and exercise can effectively reduce the tension at the base of the skull or around the jaw, as well as helping to improve posture.

Our osteopaths will also advise on stress management techniques to help to eliminate tension headaches and can also suggest relaxing massage and yoga at the clinic

For more information on the research evidence that supports the use of osteopathy to treat tension headaches, see below*.

cervicogenic headache

Cervicogenic literally meaning ‘coming from the neck’ and there is increasing evidence that the structures of the neck are commonly a source of headache.

It’s now known that there are connections between the muscles and ligaments of the upper neck and the covering of the brain and spinal cord. These structures are pain-sensitive if irritated and can lead to headache at the back of the head and the neck.

Although similar to tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches also tend to have an element of neck pain and stiffness. They are often caused by muscular irritation as a result of trauma especially following whiplash injury. In addition they can be caused poor posture and neck mechanics, and most commonly due to degenerative conditions of the neck such as spondylosis or osteo-arthritis.

Treating Cervicogenic Headaches

Research evidence shows that osteopathic treatment is effective for cervicogenic headaches*.

Osteopathic treatment improves the function of the neck joints and removes the strain through the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments).

Initial improvement usually occurs within just four treatments, with function fully restored after some additional treatment.

This, along with exercise, good postural advice and help with stress management, we have relaxing massage and yoga at the clinic, can prove particularly effective.

*Evidence – osteopathic treatment of headaches

There is convincing evidence to support the use of osteopathy to tackle various types of headache: Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010, 18:3 doi:10.1186/1746-1340-18-3: http://www.chiroandosteo.com/content/18/1/3. A 1995 study of patients with migraine found that Amitriptyline (a well established, effective drug for migraine) reduced headache scores by 24%, while spinal manipulation reduced the score by an impressive 42%.

Source: JMPT, Boline DC, Kassam PhD et al, 1995

Book a consultation today with one of our Osteopaths and get started on the road to recovery.

Call us on 01273 725667.