August 14, 2019
Headaches have a unique way of striking at the worst times and often ruining the day—or days—in the process. More than 100 types of headaches have been classified, and while their differences are important, they all possess the same ability to gum up the works of your life during an episode. One of the most common types of headaches is called a cervicogenic headache, which is more related to a problem with the neck than within the head itself. So if you suffer from headaches in Hyattsville, there’s a chance that this type may be responsible. Fortunately, our physical therapists can help to identify exactly what’s going on and arrange for an appropriate treatment program to address it.
Headaches can generally be classified into two groups: primary and secondary. A primary headache simply means the headache itself is the disorder, while secondary headaches result from other conditions or injuries to other areas of the body. Cervicogenic headaches are one of the most prevalent secondary headaches, and they actually account for about 15-20% of headaches overall. They’re classified as secondary headaches because they occur due to a dysfunction within the neck, rather than the head.
As a result, cervicogenic headaches are considered to be a form of referred pain. This means that even though the source of the pain is within the cervical—or neck—region of the spine, the sensation of pain is felt in the head in the form of a headache. The reason that neck problems lead to headaches is because there are nerves in the upper spine that have connections with certain nerves in the head. As a result, damage or dysfunction in one area can lead to symptoms in the other.
Cervicogenic headaches are particularly common after trauma to the neck, such as after experiencing whiplash from a car accident, but this is not the only cause. Using poor posture and regularly straining the neck can also lead to a cervicogenic headache, which is why individuals with office jobs and those that require heavy lifting or repetitive head movements are at an increased risk for developing them. Symptoms can occur rapidly or develop gradually over time, and the most common sign of a cervicogenic headache is pain on one side of the face or head. This pain can get worse after sudden movements of the neck, coughing, sneezing, or taking a deep breath. Other possible symptoms include stiff neck, an attack of pain that can last for hours or days, and pain that stays in one spot.
Physical therapy techniques for headaches in Hyattsville
There are many treatments available for cervicogenic headaches, but physical therapy is in a class of its own because of the careful process utilized to correctly identify the type of headache that’s present, which is then followed by a customized treatment program. If a cervicogenic headache is confirmed, your therapist will target the neck as well as the head to alleviate your symptoms. For those of you with cervicogenic headaches in Hyattsville, a typical treatment program will consist of the following components:
- Manual therapy: after identifying what parts of the upper spine are dysfunctional, your therapist will move and mobilize specific muscles and joints to relieve tension and reduce symptoms
- SNAGs: sustained natural apophyseal glides, or SNAGs for short, are a type of exercise ideal for cervicogenic headache in which you’ll mimic the manual therapy performed by the therapist on your own
- Postural reeducation: since poor posture can often contribute to these headaches, your therapist will help to identify if there are any aspects of your posture that are out of alignment and guide you on how to correct them
- Strengthening exercises: these exercises will focus on building up the strength of the muscles in the neck and shoulder regions to provide more support and reduce the chances of future cervicogenic headaches
- Soft-tissue massage: this is another hands-on technique performed by the therapist to reduce tension and alleviate painful symptoms
If you’re at all familiar with headaches, then you know what they can do to your life when they strike. While there are still many unknowns when it comes to managing headaches, physical therapy remains an effective option that caters treatment based on the specific type of headache present. So if you’re dealing with headaches in Hyattsville, we’d like to help. Contact CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services at 301-892-5336 to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Hyattsville, Laurel, Glenn Dale/Bowie, or Silver Spring, MD, or click here for more information on physical therapy for cervicogenic headaches.