Trouble With Tension Headaches? Here’s How Physical Therapy Can Help.

Jun10th 2021

Do you find yourself plagued by tension headaches in the morning, at noon, and night? Have you noticed that emotional or physical stress seem to trigger your headaches? If you’re nodding yes, know that you’re not alone. You’re one of the many Americans suffering from stress-related or “tension” headaches. Headaches affect 47% of the global population and are described by the type and location of pain in the head.

So, what’s different about these kinds of headaches? Tension headaches have their own distinctive traits, and some of their underlying causes may surprise you. If you’re ready to stop dealing with chronic tension headaches and drugs just aren’t an option for you, there’s good news. Physical therapy may provide relief. Contact our office today to learn more.

What Is A Tension Headache?

For some people, stress serves as a trigger for intense migraine attacks. This can cause blinding headaches and issues such as vision problems, vomiting, dizziness, and faintness. But for the majority of us, the word “headache” refers to a tension headache.The emotional and physical stresses of modern everyday life seem to go hand-in-hand with headache pain.

Tension headaches definitely live up to their name, but they don’t always occur for the reasons you might think. Tension headaches don’t actually begin in your head. They start in the muscles of the neck or shoulders. If these muscles become chronically tense and tight, they tend to go into spasm. This is bad news for the dura mater, a pain-sensitive membrane attached to certain small muscles near the base of the skull. These tense muscles pull on the dura mater, which causes it to refer pain signals up into the head, causing a tension headache to form.

Causes of Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are rarely as debilitating as migraines, however, they can vary widely in severity. They tend to cause a generalized ache over a broad region of the head, instead of causing localized pain to a specific area such as the eye (a symptom of a cluster headache).

If you experience emotional stress that creates chronic neck tightness, this could be the culprit behind your tension headaches. However, your headaches might also be caused by:

  • Repetitive motion or overuse from work or sports activities
  • Text neck,” a strain disorder that occurs if you’re always leaning your head forward to look at your smartphone
  • Weak neck muscles that become fatigued easily
  • Secondary pain problems, such as arthritis in the cervical spine

It’s important to note that while headaches are usually nothing to worry about, tension headaches that bother you for more than 15 days out of the month for 3 months or more are considered a chronic pain condition, and it’s important to see a doctor about it. You may have an underlying condition that requires close attention and care.

Physical Therapy Can Help Ease Pain From Tension Headaches

One thing that many people do when experiencing a headache is grab an over-the-counter pain reliever. These may reduce the symptoms of stress-related headaches for a few hours, but they do nothing about the stresses and strains that are causing those headaches day after day. Not to mention, many people find themselves becoming reliant on the short-term effects of painkillers and medication, which is another issue on its own.

If you want a longer lasting solution, physical therapy is a good place to start! Our physical therapists will conduct a thorough examination to see whether you’re dealing with tension headaches, or another kind of headache that requires a specialist’s attention.

Physical therapy strategies for treating tension headaches include:

  • Strengthening exercises to improve for your neck muscles, to allow them to hold the weight of your head more evenly and with less strain
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Manual therapy
  • Heat or ice therapy
  • Postural and ergonomic advice to help you get rid of any bad habits that might be causing “text neck”
  • Stress reduction measures such as yoga, lifestyle changes
  • Advice on how to reduce common stress triggers in your life so that you experience less tension headaches

Get Pain Relief Today.

We understand that tension headaches can take the fun out of everyday life as well as keep you from getting your work done and going about your daily routine. The good news is that you don’t have to keep putting things on hold until your headache passes. Take action to stop those stress-related headaches from taking over your life. Contact our office today to learn about how physical therapy can offer much-needed pain relief from chronic tension headaches. We’re here to listen and help.


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