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Most Common Types of Headaches

The most common types of headache are:

1) Cervicogenic headache

2) Tension headache

3) Migraine

4) Sinus headache

5) Cluster headache.

rear headache

Cervicogenic Headache:

These are headaches originating from the cervical spine or other anatomical structures in the neck, such as nerves or muscle.

SYMPTOMS can include neck pain and cervical muscle tenderness.


Although the syndrome can be characterised by chronic pain on one side of the head, it is often referred from either joints or muscles of the upper neck. Often these headaches can happen following a whiplash, neck injury or muscle trauma due to poor prolonged posture or severe stress

Often people hold poor positions and sustain them for long periods of time, this can result in a ‘poked neck’ posture with an increased thoracic curve. This posture typically results in upper neck joint stiffness and related thoracic spine stiffness, contributing directly to neck dysfunction and as a result, a cervicogenic headache. Trauma to the neck as occurs with whiplash is also a very common cause of neck pain and headache. Whiplash is usually associated with car accidents, but it can happen during skiing accidents or falls from significant heights.

Physiotherapy TREATMENT includes:

  • Postural assessment
  • Mobilisation and/or manipulation of cervical spine
  • Soft tissue massage and trigger point release of the muscles and the soft tissues around the neck.
  • Exercise programs, lifestyle advice and self management techniques to improve the postural control,           position and strength of the neck, upper spine, lumbo-pelvic core and scapular muscles.
  • Acupuncture if indicated

You will learn inhibition (or “switching off”) of the over active superficial neck muscles and to engage (or “switch on”) the deep stabilising neck muscles. An individualised specific exercise program can be prescribed which can target re-activation of deep neck muscles and relaxation of the superficial muscles to restore balance in the neck and spine. This is usually required to fully improve the headaches and stop them recurring due to poor posture or incorrect fitness and strength training techniques.


Man temple headache

Tension headache

Tension headaches are caused by muscle spasm over the head and neck. This can be due to stress, worry or anxiety. They tend to be afternoon headaches and feel like a tight band across the head.


Migraine is a severe throbbing headache that is often associated with nausea and vomiting, often the pain is one sided. Migraine can be caused by triggers e.g.- food, emotions, light and noise, exercise.

Sinus headache

Sinus headaches

Sinus headaches are caused by increased production of mucous within the sinus, or blockage of the drainage system of the sinus. Pain is mostly frontal and often worse with bending forward or lying down.


Cluster Headaches

Cluster Headaches occur in bouts, often they are short lasting, but may occur several times within a 24hr period. Severe pain occurs behind one eye or one half of the head. These can often be helped by exercise.


Take a moment to “feel” your headache;

  • Is your headache caused by your neck ?
  • Does your pain starts at the top of your neck and then spread around to the front of your head?
  • Does moving your neck make the pain worse?
  • Does prolonged sitting make your headache worse?
  • Do you have light headedness or dizziness?
  • Is your headache eased by pressure to the base of the skull?
  • If the answer is YES to any of these questions Physiotherapy treatment will help you.

How to prevent your headaches:

  • Check your posture, think tall. Your shoulders should be relaxed, your chin tucked in and your head           level. Your neck should feel straight and relaxed.

Bad posture is one of the main contributors of neck pain and sometimes headaches. The rule is to keep the head in a neutral position. Many of us tend to hunch or bend the neck forward while reading or working at the computer. In some offices the computer may be at a much higher level than the head, causing the individual to look up for extended periods. Sleeping with your neck too high or too low can cause neck pain and headaches, as well as a mattress that does not support the natural curve of the back.

  • Check your sitting position, especially if you are in a sustained position for long periods. You may           need to stretch frequently throughout the day.
  • Check your pillow. A memory foam pillow is best for most people. Do not use more than one pillow.
  • Relax: watch that you are not clenching your teeth, or hunching your shoulders. Learn to recognise           when you are tense and learn how to relax. Taking deep breaths or applying a heat pack to the tense           muscles may help.
  • Exercise: You need to keep your muscles and joints flexible and strong. You will be prescribed an           exercise program that is appropriate for you.

Headache Triggers

  • Increased stress levels – causes increase muscle tension and increased blood flow
  • Decreased immunity
  • Dietary factors – particularly important in migraine and cluster headaches:

o Caffeine

o MSG (soy sauce, chips, tomato paste)

o Preserved meats (e.g. Hot dogs)

o Food colouring’s

o Citrus, red skinned fruit, honey, licorice, almonds, wine

o Cheese, Chocolates, Bananas, Tomatoes, Vegemite, Wine, Mushrooms

Here at Pottsville Physiotherapy we can successfully treat headaches and show you how to prevent the pain recurring.

Melissa Macdonald has done extensive training in the management of headache and migraine and specialises in this area. Greater then 80% of all headaches (including migraine) have a cervical component and can be helped and even alleviated with skilled treatment.

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