Headache affects nearly everyone at least occasionally.
It is a problem at some time in the lives of an estimated 40% of people in the UK and one of the most frequent causes of consultation in both general practice and specialist clinics as well as complementary therapy clinics such as osteopathy, physiotherapy and acupuncture.
Types of Headache
Headache is classified following the latest guideline of the British Association for the Study of Headache (BASH) which recognise four main types of primary headache:
Migraine occurs in 15% of the UK adult population, more prevalent in women more than men by a ratio of 3:1 with an estimated 190,000 attacks experienced every day. Migraine can be divided into two subcategories, with or without aura. The aura is the phase just before the actual headache appears, not everyone who suffers from migraine experiences it but it can be characterised by high sensitivity to light and noise as well as by nausea and mild vision alterations. Migraine pain affects only one side of the head usually with very intense and debilitating pain that can last for many hours. The origin of the word migraine itself means literally one side of the head. Often painkillers don’t help and a better relief is found by lying flat in a dark and quiet room.
Tension headache in its episodic subtype affects up to 80% of people from time to time, many of whom refer to it as “normal” or “ordinary” headache. Consequently, they mostly treat themselves without reference to physicians using over-the-counter (OTC) medications and generally quite effectively. Nevertheless, it can be a disabling headache lasting over several hours and very often associated with musculoskeletal symptoms such as neck pain, base of the skull pain, jaw pain and temple pain.
Cluster headache is much less common, with a prevalence of about 0.05%, but it is both intense and frequently recurring. People who suffer from it would most probably find that their headache follows a very seasonal pattern with prolonged periods of pain for 6-12 weeks, once or twice a year, often at the same time each year. Cluster headache mostly affects men and can begin in their 20s, smoking seems to be a strong predisposing factor. Similarly to migraine, cluster headache pain affects one side of the head at the time.
4. Medication Overuse Headache
Medication-overuse headache is usually a chronic daily headache, and may affect 2% of adults as well as some children. This type of headache is secondary to overuse or misuse of medications intended for the treatment of headache.
Can osteopathy or physiotherapy help treat headaches?
- Manual therapy will help you relieve headache related symptoms such as neck, shoulder and temple pain.
- Your physiotherapist or Osteopath will be able to identify if your headache has a postural cause and they will be able to advise on what it is causing it and what you can do to change it.
- Dry needling acupuncture, often used by physiotherapists and osteopaths along with manual therapy, can help relieve deep muscular tension and address crucial areas of tenderness such as the base of your skull (commonly very sore in headache pictures).
- Osteopaths and physiotherapists are trained to diagnose different types of headache and investigate red flags (medical reasons for which you should seek medical help) and will be able to refer you appropriately should they believe that you need more specialist care.
- Cranio-sacral therapy (a specific branch of osteopathy) is thought to be helpful in relieving the sense of head compression that often accompanies headache.
Our highly experienced, multidisciplinary team here at Kennington can advise and assist you in the best course of treatment if you are suffering from headaches. Please get in touch to see how we can help.