Headaches can be so painful, oftentimes very debilitating. While most headaches do not stem from underlying health conditions or serious problems, there are instances where headaches may be a sign of concern. Overall, these often stem from a result of fever, muscle pain, withdrawal from caffeine, alcohol consumption, foods, hormones, medications, pain in the teeth, stress, or pregnancy. In this guide, you will learn valuable information pertaining to headaches. Continue reading to learn more.

Man with Headache

What is a Headache, Exactly?

A headache is pain that is located within the head or the face. In some instances, it involves pain in the area of the upper neck. Structures that are sensitive to pain in these areas include the skin, the bone, and various structures within the nose, eyes, ears, and mouth. It is a painful sensation that occurs in any of these areas and may be classified as “sharp” or as “dull”. Headaches may or may not be accompanied by other symptoms. The pain experienced stems from signals between the nerves, the brain, and the blood vessels. The nerves in the impacted areas get activated and send pain signals directly to the brain; however, medical professionals are still researching why these signals are activated.

What Causes a Headache?

Headaches are generally classified as either “primary” or “secondary”. In primary, the cause is related to issues or overactivity with the structures within the head that are considered to be sensitive to pain. It is not due to an underlying issue. It stems from chemical-based activity within the brain, the nerves, or the blood vessels. It may also be related to muscles – or, a combination of some or all previously mentioned. Examples of a primary headache include a tension headache or a cluster headache.

Secondary headaches are actually a direct result or a symptom of some type of disease that is responsible for activating the nerves that are sensitive to pain within the head. Various types of issues cause secondary headaches. Examples of these conditions include -but, are not at all limited to – blood clots in the brain, carbon monoxide poisoning, COVID-19 or other types of coronaviruses, dehydration, and high blood pressure. In order to determine the cause of a headache and whether it is primary or secondary, a diagnosis must be made by a medical professional.

Dont - I have a Headache

Is There More Than One Type of Headache? If so, What Are They?

There are actually several hundred types of headaches; however, the most common types are the sinus headache, tension headache, and migraine. Below is an outline of each, followed by a brief explanation:

  1. Sinus Headache – The sinuses are located within the forehead, the cheekbones, and immediately behind the bridge of your nose. When these become inflamed – due to an infection or due to an allergic reaction -more mucus is created and the draining areas become blocked. It results in an accumulation of pressure, which causes what is referred to as a “sinus headache”.
  2. Tension Headache – These are headaches that result in discomfort and a sense of tightness around the forehead region or the back of the head. It may also be felt in the neck area. These types of headaches are also referred to as “stress headaches”. Among adults, these are the most commonly experienced headaches.
  3. Migraine Headache – This type of headache usually causes a throbbing type of pain or even a pulsing-like sensation in the head. In most instances, it is on just one side of the head. Most who suffer from migraines experience nausea, some vomiting, and even some level of sensitivity to sounds and lights. Many experience an aura before a migraine occurs. This includes visual disturbances, tingling sensations, and even complications in speaking.

Should I Exercise if I Have a Headache?

In some cases, you should not exercise when you have a headache – at least in a strenuous manner. There are people that actually suffer from headaches as a result of exercising. Then, there are those that find that if they do exercise when suffering from a headache, it helps reduce the overall intensity of the episode. In short, whether or not you exercise when you have a headache depends on you, personally, and how it feels when you attempt to exercise with a headache. If you suffer from exercising with a headache, consult your doctor. You will be able to work together to determine the underlying cause and to create a treatment plan, which will include which activities may be pursued and which activities that should be avoided.

Can Physical Therapy Help with Headaches?

Yes, physical therapy has been proven to be highly effective in alleviating headaches.

Once a physical therapist has identified the type of headache that you are suffering from, they will then create a customized treatment plan. This may include hands-on therapy that will help in alleviating stiffness in the joints and in the muscles. It also helps in increasing overall mobility of the head and the neck region, decreasing tension within the muscles, and optimizing the overall performance of the muscles.

Exercise therapy may also be prescribed. The activities that a physical therapist encourages you to engage in will help in decreasing the amount of pain that you experience, eliminating inflammation within the body, and promote the healing process. The professional will also help in pinpointing the triggers of the headache, educate on relaxation techniques, and provide educational information that will help in reducing the amount in which a headache is experienced and the overall severity of the episodes.

Man with Headache

What Triggers Sinus Headaches?

Sinus headaches are triggered by the development of congestion in the various sinus passages in and around the face. They may be triggered by sinusitis, which is a sinus condition that is continual. If you experience seasonal allergies, a sinus headache may occur. The resulting condition results in pressure that may translate in pain signals to the brain.

How Do You Know if You Have a Migraine or Sinus Headache?

Migraines and sinus headaches may have similar symptoms. These may include a stuffy and/or runny nose, watery eyes, and pressure in the head and the cheeks. If it is a sinus headache, mucus from the nose will often be yellow or some other type of color, but migraine mucus is always clear.

A migraine may result in the development of nausea, vomiting, and no appetite. It may cause fatigue and dizziness and even blurred vision.

A sinus headache may cause a fever and even an odor on the breath that is foul-smelling.

To confirm which type of headache you are suffering from, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

What is the Best Medicine for Sinus Headache?

Most of the sinus headaches that are experienced stem from viral infections. There are sinus headaches that may come from bacterial infections. For these, there are antibiotics. There are over-the-counter allergy medications that may help in drying out the sinuses and reducing the pressure that results in a sinus headache. In addition to this, there are nasal steroids, pain relieving medications, mucolytics, and decongestants. In addition to the medications that are available to you for sinus headaches, you may work with your doctor to determine your triggers and avoid them completely.

In Bed with Headache

What Types of Over-the-Counter Medications are Effective for Headache Pain Relief?

There are several types of over-the-counter medications that may prove to be effective in relieving the pain from headaches. Below is an outline of each as well as a brief description:

  1. Acetaminophen – This is an analgesic that is used to treat minor-based aches and pains. It is also capable of reducing fever. Tylenol is the most popular.
  2. Ibuprofen – This is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication that is available for mild to severe pain, inflammation, and to treat fever.
  3. Naproxen – This, too, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication that is helpful in treating pain and fever.
  4. Aspirin – This is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is also designated as a blood thinner. It treats pain, inflammation, and fever. It has been proven to be effective in reducing the overall risk for heart attack.
  5. Acetaminophen, Caffeine, and Aspirin Combination -This combination is known to narrow the blood vessels, help in reducing pain, and reducing inflammation. The most popular name brand with this combination is Excedrin, which offers many different headache variations on the market today.

Can Poor Posture Cause Migraines?

Yes, poor posture can cause migraines to develop. Posture issues cause tension in the shoulders, neck, and the upper back region. Poor posture is known to result in musculoskeletal dysfunction. This -in turn -could result in the development of mobility impairments and other complications. If you suffer from poor posture and from headaches, it is best that you pursue posture retraining services. These simple services will not only help you regain proper posture, it will help you in overcoming pain and discomfort that stems from the poor posture.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy for Headache Sufferers

Physical therapy for headaches can benefit you in numerous ways. A physical therapist will perform an evaluation on you to make a determination on what the problem is and where it is located. Once the determination is made, there are many treatment methods that may be utilized. The following may be included as part of the treatment plan:

  • The use of cold therapy
  • The use of hot therapy
  • Soft tissue mobilizations
  • Traction of the cervical spine
  • Muscular release exercises
  • Muscle energy exercises
  • Mobilizations of various areas of the spine
  • Strengthening exercises

By utilizing physical therapy, you will experience many benefits. The following outlines the most common benefits:

  1. You will receive a personalized care plan that meets your individual needs.
  2. You will be able to receive the type of care that you need when you need it most.
  3. You will find that you do not require over-the-counter or prescription drugs to reduce the pain and discomfort that you experience with your headaches.
  4. You will save money on expensive medical treatments for headaches and possibly even the underlying conditions (if you have one) that is causing the headaches.
  5. You will experience improvements in both your mobility and your balance.
  6. Physical therapy not only helps headaches, it also helps in tackling general issues associated with your underlying health.
  7. It is highly beneficial in managing age-related complications that arise in your life.
  8. It will help you in maximizing your overall movements.
  9. You will not become dependent upon pain medications.
  10. You will be able to regain your original capabilities.

We Can Help

We here at Back to Motion offer many services that are designed to help individuals with headaches. We offer posture retraining for those that experience severe pain from improper posture, Smart Fit technology services, rehabilitation and fitness, an anti-gravity treadmill, vestibular therapy for those that suffer from dizziness due to their headaches, dry needling, and more! We also offer many classes that you may benefit from. These include health and wellness exercise classes, TRX, TAI CHI, The 7-Minute Workout course, and more!

The Back to Motion Physical Therapy Clinic combines the newest approaches and treatments with high levels of expertise and technology to create individualized treatment plans that will help you overcome any issues that you have with headaches and provide a boost to your general health and wellness. We believe in using a comprehensive approach to helping you heal and in restoring your health. Each of the experts we enlist specializes in a wide range of conditions and health areas. If you are looking for a way to get rid of those painful headaches once and for all and to boost up your general health, we are here for you! To find out more about what we have to offer, or to get started with our clinic, simply give us a call today at: 303-832-5577