Headaches are a big problem for many people these days. Especially with all of the computer work and time spent on devices at home and on the go!
Headaches can come from numerous causes:
1) Postural Headaches - Related to Neck and Upper Back Posture
We often sit at our desks or on our devices for longer and longer periods these days between work, social media and games. This can put our neck and upper backs into poor positions for long periods of time and create muscular imbalances in the neck and upper back.
The head in an average adult weights about 8-10 lbs and if we do not sit up straight, and sit with a forward head position, then the weight of the head can compress onto the joints of the neck and create pain in the neck as well as contribute headaches. Sometimes, there is even referred pain to the top of the head the forehead and commonly behind the eyes.
Forward head posture typically creates a weakness in the muscles at the front of the neck, as well as shortness and tightness at the back of the neck near the base of the skull. This tightness at the back and compression can be part of what leads to chronic postural headaches.
We can treat this type of headache with manual therapy, or hands on, treatment aimed at restoring the mobility in tight of stiff and compressed joints and muscles. Then we can provide you with a home exercise program to help you maintain good posture, improved neck strength and mobility, and ultimately, to reduce the frequency and severity of headache pain.
2) Neck referral - post injury or whiplash
Often, these headaches are brought on by a fall, concussion or whiplash type of injury where the head is moved quickly in space. It is often linked to concussion as well. There can be similar findings as noted with the Postural Headaches above, but the restrictions in mobility can be worse, and the muscles can have sustained an injury during the fall or injury which can require more time to heal and recover. In these cases, we will assess your specific injury needs and create a treatment plan aimed at gradually restoring neck and upper back strength and mobility, with improved postural stability and muscle control, which will help to alleviate headache pain and neck pain.
3) Inner ear or Vestibular Conditions
The inner ear or vestibular system can be linked to headaches and must be assessed to determine whether vestibular involvement is present. If present, then treatment aimed at addressing any vestibular dysfunctions will be completed in addition to any neck and postural work. Often, the vestibular system is affected in correlation with the neck after injury and treating both dysfunctions will be required to full recover from the headaches.
4) Visual contributions
Often, there can be mild visual weakness that can occur in conjunction with neck or head injury. Sometimes there can be changes that occur with aging as well. Wearing bifocal loses can also make it much harder for your neck to stay in a good position.
At Body Works, we assess visual tracking, convergence and gaze stabilization as part of a screen aimed to determine if there is visual involvement in your headaches. We also will often get you to work on visual tracing exercises to help restore movement control and proprioception coordination in the upper neck and eyes. This has great benefit to day to day function and will often assist neck pain and headaches associated with visual strain. We do refer to optometrists with any visual conditions that required further medical evaluation and work together as a team with these medical providers to help provide you the best care possible.