Understanding our bodies: Headache

What is it?  

Headaches, also known as cephalalgias, are one of the most common medical conditions encountered in the general population. After all, who has never had one or has never had a friend or family member complain about one?

Although many believe that recurrent headaches are a chronic condition that cannot be cured, this is only a myth. Indeed, a some types of headaches can be vastly diminished in either frequency or intensity, and even completely remediated through physical therapy.


Who could have it?  

This condition, which is very diverse in causes and subtypes, can impact people of all ages and genders, regardless of their physical fitness, dietary habits and of their general health status. However, according to statistics, headaches occur more frequently to women and to people between 20 and 50 years old. 

Due to their intense symptoms, headaches can also cause difficulties with attention, with concentration and an elevated sense of fatigue at work as well as in your daily life. This in turn often tends to diminish your performance at work and in your recreational activities, as well as a significant decrease in quality of life and general satisfaction, and can therefore impact multiple spheres of your life.


What does it look like?  

A headache can present itself in multiple ways: a single continuous dull ache or many small sudden jolts of pain, a single episode of occurrence per week or tens of times a day, forehead pain or back-of-the-head pain that seems to descend into your neck, etc. The single common element to all types of headaches is a pain in the general area of the head, often times felt as if coming from inside the head itself.

Some subtypes of headaches can also present themselves accompanied by neck or shoulder pain. It is therefore quite crucial to properly detail the symptoms you experience when consulting a healthcare professional to facilitate an accurate diagnosis and an optimized course of treatment to your needs.


How can physiotherapy help?

Due to the large range of headache subtypes and the large variation between the different subtypes, some headaches are better treated in a medical context while others are more suited to a physiotherapeutic approach, with a good amount of overlap between both professions in most cases. 

Sometimes, headaches can be the sign of a more severe underlying condition, especially if the headaches themselves are very frequent, severe, continuous or appeared suddenly. It is therefore very important to take this condition seriously and to take the necessary steps to exclude the possibility of a serious underlying illness and to enable an enthusiastic return to your daily activities.

An evaluation in physical therapy can help you in establishing whether your condition is better suited for a medical approach or a physiotherapeutic one, and can in the latter case guide your rehabilitation through such modalities as specific neuromotor control exercises of the neck, targeted cervical spine mobilization techniques, and ergonomic posture practical guidelines and personalized advice for work and home, to only cite a few of the treatment modalities available in clinic.