To say the past year or so has been a little stressful is an understatement. If you’re like more than 70% of the population, chances are you have experienced a stress headache — or tension type headache (TTH) — at some point over the course of this time.
Tension headaches are often described as a mild to moderate headache that feels like a tight band is around your head. These headaches can last just a few hours, or they can be unrelenting and considered chronic. Not a great deal is known about the cause of tension headaches, but it is believed they may be stress-related or they may be associated with musculoskeletal problems in the neck.
The pressure you feel with a tension headache most often leads people to reach for the Tylenol or ibuprofen right away. However, taking too much pain reliever can often lead to other, less-desirable health problems and even to rebound headaches.
Physical therapy can be a healthy alternative to medication that gives hands-on relief while preventing liver and kidney issues from too many pills. In this article, we will show you three ways that physical therapy can help get you relief from your episodic or chronic tension headaches.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
If you’ve been experiencing episodes of tension headaches, you know it can cause not only discomfort but disruption to your daily life. A physical therapist may be just the person to help you.
A therapist will first try to get to know your pain better by asking you to:
- Recall any neck, head, or jaw injuries you’ve had in the past
- Describe the location, nature, and severity of your pain, along with any other symptoms you experience with a headache
- Physically draw on a diagram the areas you feel the most pain
After taking time to get to know the location and severity of the pain you’re experiencing, a therapist could:
- Test your muscle strength
- Examine your posture in a variety of positions and while performing various tasks
- Measure the range of motion in your neck and shoulders
- Evaluate the mobility of your neck joints and muscles
Once the therapist has thoroughly evaluated you and your condition, they will work with you on a treatment plan that will help relieve pain and eliminate future tension headaches. This plan can include anything from improving your posture and neck mobility to ways you can modify your living environment to reduce strain.
Ways to Relieve and Prevent Headaches with PT
After you’ve been evaluated, the real work — working on feeling better — begins. Your physical therapist may try one or a combination of the following:
- Correcting Your Posture
Poor posture can compress muscles and nerves and put undue pressure on parts of your body. For many people, this kind of pressure can lead to tension headaches. A therapist will help you improve your posture as well as demonstrate correct ways to sit and stand, which will help overworked muscles.
They may also suggest some modifications to your living and work areas, including a rubber mat to stand on in the kitchen or a special chair for your office.
- Flexibility Improvement
The more flexibility you have in your neck and shoulders, the less pressure these muscles have over the course of the day. Physical therapy will help you loosen up your chest and shoulders while helping you stretch your neck. The result can be an improvement for people with chronic stress headaches.
- Strength Training
Your neck, back, and shoulders support you a lot throughout your day. If these muscles are too weak for the job, that means they are easy to get overworked, which can easily lead to tension headaches. Working with a therapist to build up these muscles will make sure they have the capacity to support your body the way they need to without causing more pain.
Once you get a tension headache, it can be so painful that it seems there’s no relief in sight. But working with a physical therapist in various ways can help you get relief from pain and prevent future pain in a healthy, natural way.
At South Orange Rehabilitation and Wellness, we are dedicated to giving you a pain-free life so that you’re free to do all the things you love. Contact one of our professionals today to discuss how we can help you with your tension headaches.