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There are currently 28 million headache sufferers in the United States. 21 million are female, and 7 million are male (www.americanheadachesociety.org).

People often attribute headache pain to allergies, food or other causes, but some headache pain often originates from the cervical spine. If the source of your headache pain is a mechanical diagnosis, it may be treatable with physical therapy.

If you answer “yes” to ANY one of the following questions, you could be a good candidate for physical therapy to address your headache pain:

  • Headache produced consistently with certain posture or activities (such as when you are propped up in bed reading)
  • Loss of range of motion of cervical spine when headache occurs (more painful/stiffer to turn or look up)
  • Unilateral or headache on one side of your head
  • Headache at base of the posterior portion of your head
  • Headache occurs more often when “still” versus “moving”

During my years as a clinician treating a variety of different patients, I have found alleviating a patient’s headache pain is the most rewarding. One of my former female patients arrived in my office six weeks post cervical spine fusion surgery. Two weeks after the surgery, she received an epidural injection that resulted in a constant headache. She attributed the cause of her headache to the injection. During the course of her mechanical exam, we were able to find a simple sustained head and cervical spine positioning that she could perform easily while sitting. During her first exam, this position decreased her pain from a 9 (on a 10-point scale) to a 2. She was instructed to perform this movement every 2 hours and with the occurrence of headaches. On her second visit, one week later, she reported that her headache had completely subsided within 24 hours from the initial visit. She also reported that when she felt the trace of a headache beginning to start that she could relieve it with the exercise.

If you are suffering from headaches, please don’t hesitate to tell your physician because you may be able to receive therapy as a conservative treatment option. At the St. David’s Spine and Sports Therapy Clinic, we can assess your headache and determine if it is a mechanical diagnosis that can be treated in an average of two to four visits.

-Susan Hennigan, DPT
St. David’s Spine and Sport Therapy Clinic

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