Headaches are a frequent complaint given by patients but are not often the primary reason for seeing an osteopath. Osteopaths can help with headaches that have arisen from the neck, sometimes referred to as cervicogenic headaches.
Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headache and occur more commonly in women than men. The actual cause is not known but it is thought that when the muscles covering the skull are stressed, they may spasm and cause pain. These stressors can be physical, such as sitting hunched over a laptop for too long or emotional.
The pain is often most intense over the eyebrows and affects both sides of the head but allows most people to function normally despite the headache.
An osteopath can help with tension headaches by relieving any tension in the upper back, shoulders, neck and suboccipital region (base of skull).
There are however some ‘red flags’ which must not be ignored, and these are listed below:
- Headache that wakes the individual up or is present on awakening
- Headache accompanied by documented high blood pressure
- Insidious or new onset of headaches (less than 6 months)
- New onset with neurologic signs and symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, gait or motor (movement) disturbances, fatigue, irritability or mood changes
- New onset accompanied by constitutional symptoms such as fever, chills, sweats or a stiff neck with nausea or vomiting
- Episodes of ‘blacking out’
- Sudden severe headache accompanied by flu like symptoms, aching muscles, jaw pain when eating or visual disturbances
- No previous personal or family history of migraine headaches