Headaches can result from a variety of sources, but a common factor that people tend to overlook is faulty postures. Did you know that 20% of headache symptoms are musculoskeletal-related? Poor posture places unnecessary stress on the joints and ligaments in the cervical spine. This could lead to increased muscle tension, improper blood flow, inflammation, and subsequent, pain complaints. By correcting your posture and reducing existing impairments (i.e. muscle tightness, weakness), you could reduce the re-occurrences and intensity of headache symptoms.

The first steps to solving musculoskeletal-related headache symptoms is to be able to identify specific attributes…

  • When does your headache start?
    Is it after sustained positions? Working on the computer? Stressful events?
  • Where is your pain located?
    Bilateral (both sides of the head)? Unilateral (one-side)? Along the jaw? Base of the neck?
  • How long have you been experiencing headache symptoms?
    Chronic vs. acute? After a specific incident or trauma?
  • What relieves your headache symptoms?
    Lying down? Ice/heat? Pain medication?
  • Are you experiencing other symptoms?
    Nausea or vomitting? Dizziness? Shoulder pain? 

All of this information is helpful to relay to your physical therapist during a consultation or initial evaluation. It helps the therapist begin to determine which structures could be contributing to your pain, which will aid in the development of your overall plan of care. Beside subjective data, the physical therapist will assess for specific objective data. It has been found that patients with frequent headache symptoms often present with:

  • Impaired mobility of the cervical spine due to impaired joint and soft tissue length (i.e. lack of range of motion)
  • Impaired strength and endurance of the cervical spine (i.e. difficulty with maintaining certain positions for prolonged periods of time)
  • Impaired muscle balance in the shoulder, shoulder blades, and even the thoracic & lumbar spine (i.e. development of poor compensatory patterns)

After evaluating your specific situation, the physical therapist can determine which treatment plan is most appropriate for you. The therapist can utilize various manual techniques, external feedback, and exercises to help you identity postural deficits, learn how to achieve and maintain a more optimal posture, promote healthy muscles and joints, and restore functional mobility and strength.

If you battle frequent headache symptoms, consider scheduling a free consultation with Dr. Jasmine Evan, PT, DPT today or speak with your primary care physician regarding obtaining a referral for a physical therapy evaluation. If you have questions or concerns, please Ask an Expert. Our experts are happy to help!