If stress headaches are happening so frequently that they are impacting your daily life, it’s time to start thinking about physical therapy for relief. Stress headaches, also called tension headaches, are the most common type of headache that impacts people. While they are not as serious as migraines, tension headaches are a sign that something in your body is “off.” A physical therapist can work with you to determine the cause and eliminate stress-related headaches for good.
Causes of Stress-Related Headaches
One of the main causes of stress headaches is right there in the name: stress. The headache generally happens when the muscles in the neck or scalp become tense and contract. Depression and anxiety are similar emotions to stress that can also lead to headaches. In addition, there may be a physical cause behind your stress-related headaches. An accident or injury to the neck or back can contribute to headaches. Poor posture and arthritis are two other potential causes.
Diagnosing Your Headaches with a Physical Therapist
Before your physical therapy treatments begin, your therapist will work with you to diagnose your headaches. You’ll need to discuss your medical history with the therapist. If you sustained an injury to your neck, back or jaw years ago, it could still be contributing to headaches to this day. The location where you experience pain, such as in the face, back of the neck or forehead, can also help to diagnose the source.
Your physical therapist will likely run you through some tests as part of the diagnosis phase. For example, your posture will be checked as you engage in several activities. The strength of your muscles and the range of motion in your neck and shoulders will be tested. Your therapist might do some manual therapy to see how mobile your neck joints are. Once the cause of your stress-related headaches is determined, a customized course of physical therapy can be prescribed to treat them.
Physical Therapy for Stress-Related Headaches
The treatment of your stress headaches will depend in part on the diagnosis. For example, one course of treatment that would work for correcting your posture and strengthening the neck muscles might not be appropriate if your headaches are the result of a past injury. In general, you can expect stretching and strength training to be part of your treatment. Other options that your physical therapist might employ can include:
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Hot and cold compressions
- Body mobilization
- Cervical traction
- McKenzie therapies
Aside from your physical therapy sessions at the clinic, your therapist will also recommend exercises, stretches and lifestyle changes that you can make at home, which will all contribute to eliminating your headaches.
Benefits of Physical Therapy for Headaches
The ultimate goal of your physical therapy regimen will be to eliminate your stress-related headaches. However, in addition to relief, you will gain additional benefits that will likely improve your overall quality of life:
- Improved Strength: Your therapist will teach you exercises to strengthen your neck and upper back, which will lead to improved posture. With better posture, you will be able to stand and sit longer without experiencing discomfort.
- Reduced Neck Tension: You will have better range of motion in your neck and reduced tension, thanks to manual physical therapy techniques applied to the muscles there.
- Better Posture: Bad posture is really one of the leading causes of stress-related headaches. If you don’t enjoy good posture throughout the day, it is likely to lead to more generalized aches and pains, as well as the muscle tension that contributes to stress-related headaches.
What are you waiting for? Stress-related headaches can be a thing of the past for you, after working with a physical therapist to correct the problem. Contact our office today to schedule your first appointment.