Many adults suffer from headaches, whether migraines or tension headaches, which interfere with their daily activities. If this is your case, various healthcare professionals can help you identify the cause(s) to reduce or relieve your headaches and thus improve your quality of life.
What causes headaches?
Headaches can be caused by, among other things, muscle tension, irritation of a nerve or compression on the blood vessels in the neck area. Many factors have an influence such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, hunger, dehydration, the menstrual cycle, bruxism (grinding your teeth) or maintaining a poor posture for a prolonged period of time.
A healthcare professional will help you identify the origin of your symptoms in order to treat them appropriately.
When should you worry about headaches?
If you experience a very intense headache, accompanied by losing control of your movements, difficulty speaking or drooping of the face, you must go to the emergency room. A very intense headache can be a symptom of a stroke.
You should seek medical attention promptly if you have had a blow to the head and your headache is accompanied by fever, confusion, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances or night sweats.
Types of headaches
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
The pain associated with a migraine is usually very strong and can be located near one eye, on one side of the head, or be more diffuse. It is often described as a throbbing or shooting sensation in the skull, and can also be accompanied by sensitivity to light or sound, a luminous halo, nausea or vomiting. A migraine episode can last from a few hours to several days.
Migraines are a neurological disorder whose exact cause is still unknown, but may involve the intracranial blood vessels. This condition should be treated with the help of a physician.
What causes headaches?
Tension headaches, also called cervicogenic headaches, are headaches that originate in the neck. It is the most common type of headache.
Possible causes include muscle tension in the neck, an accident, a fall or a prolonged or repeated awkward posture (keeping your head tilted forward while working on a computer or tilted backwards to work at height, for example). These postures can irritate the nerves and blood vessels located at the junction between the skull and the first vertebrae of the neck.
The pain associated with tension headaches is often described as mild to moderate pressure or tightness in the head. It can be located in different areas of the skull, such as the forehead, the temples, the back of the skull or the eyes, and may or may not be accompanied by pain in the neck. Only one side of the head may be affected, or both at the same time. These symptoms may increase with hunger, fatigue, anxiety, or alcohol consumption.
What is Arnold's neuralgia?
Arnold’s neuralgia, or occipital neuralgia, is a type of headache caused by irritation of the nerve that is located very close to the 2nd vertebra of the neck, at the base of the skull. Stiffness, tension, or scar tissue in this area may be the cause. The pain is often intense and is usually on one side, from the back of the head to the forehead and behind the eye. It is sometimes accompanied by numbness.
What are the symptoms of a cluster headache?
A cluster headache is quite rare and occurs more frequently in men. It typically causes brief but frequent and very intense headaches. The pain is first around one eye and then spreads into the face. It may be accompanied by tearing and nasal congestion.
How are headaches treated?
Expert tip: Stay active
Most of our daily activities can create tension in the neck, especially when a posture is held for long periods of time. Your body prefers movement. Avoid staying in the same position for more than 30 consecutive minutes. To help you remember to change position, set an alarm on your phone or computer. Get up, walk and move as often as possible during the day.
You should also do regular physical activity. Exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety that can cause headaches. Targeted muscle strengthening, mobility and flexibility exercises can also reduce headaches.
Which professional should you consult?
Different professionals often work together to maximize results. If in doubt, we recommend that you first consult a physiotherapist so that they can assess your needs and the treatments required to help curb your headaches. If necessary, they will recommend the appropriate professional(s) to consult in order to optimize your rehabilitation.
Why consult a physiotherapist?
After a thorough assessment, a physiotherapist will explain the origin of your headaches and offer you a treatment plan based on your goals. Different options can be considered such as exercises specific to your condition, joint mobilizations, muscle relaxation techniques, etc. Your physiotherapist will also give you advice on how to relieve your headaches.
Why consult an occupational therapist?
An occupational therapist will assess the impact of your headaches on your usual abilities such as working, doing household chores and hobbies. Their treatments, which can take the form of strengthening exercises or simulating work tasks, for example, will help you maximize your autonomy.
Why consult an osteopath?
Through a variety of manual techniques, an osteopath will treat the mobility restrictions that can affect all the structures of your body (bones, muscles, ligaments, viscera, etc.) in connection with your headaches. Improved mobility enables the body to recover better and decreases pain.
Why consult a massage therapist?
A massage therapist will focus mainly on releasing tension in the superficial and deep tissues to help you move more freely and reduce your headaches. Their treatments will also help increase blood circulation to promote better recovery.
Why consult an acupuncturist?
Through various techniques and using therapeutic tools such as needles and suction cups, an acupuncturist will work to reduce the pain, stress, muscle tension and inflammation that may be linked to your headaches.
Why consult a kinesiologist?
After assessing your ability to move and your overall physical condition, a kinesiologist will teach you exercises that are appropriate to help you resume your activities.