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Physical Therapy to Reduce Headaches

woman grabbing head due to headache
woman grabbing head due to headache

Have you ever sat at a desk for hours, slouching in your chair and craning your neck to see the computer screen and ended up with a "crick" in the right side of your neck and a headache for your effort?  How about a splitting headache behind one eye after falling asleep on the couch in an awkward position? 

There are many different types of headaches, but headaches like this that are paired with neck pain are usually caused by a problem in the cervical spine (neck).  The pain is also typically on one side of the head. In medical terminology this is called a cervicogenic headache (cervico:neck, genic: coming from)

This type of headache differs from a tension headache or a true migraine.  Cervicogenic headaches are typically on one side, include neck pain, and and are worse with neck movements. 

Physical Therapy can evaluate the joints and muscles of the neck to determine the type of headache you have and work on these issues to make you feel and function better.  We often use a combination of treatments, including manual therapy, joint mobilization/manipulation, muscle energy techniques, exercise,  myofascial release, and stretches.  Studies have found that this approach to treatment can help headaches both short and long term. 

We can also educate you on daily habits and best practices and postures for working at your desk, among other things.  There are no "bad" postures but it can help to have your desk set up to encourage good positioning and movements.  It is also good to remember to take breaks when working for long stretches. 

Physical Therapy can help with many types of headaches, but is especially useful for neck related headaches. 

Andres Jung, Gabriela F Carvalho, Tibor M Szikszay, Vera Pawlowsky, Tom Gabler, Kerstin Luedtke, Physical Therapist Interventions to Reduce Headache Intensity, Frequency, and Duration in Patients With Cervicogenic Headache: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis, Physical Therapy, Volume 104, Issue 2, February 2024, pzad154,

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