Causes of headaches

From your friendly local Chiro & Physio - this is Part Two of the previous blog post: The 3 Most Common Types of Headache

Julie Cai

November 15, 2022

From your friendly local Chiro & Physio - this is Part Two of the previous blog post: The 3 Most Common Types of Headaches.

In Part One of this Headache series, we established the three most common types of headaches; tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches & migraines. These can be caused by muscle contractions, referred muscular pain, restricted joints and compressed nerves. There is emerging strong evidence that these impairments can be effectively treated by Chiropractic, Physiotherapy & Craniosacral Therapy.

But why do these dyssfunctions occur in the first place? Based on our clinical experience, we have found there are four main causes for these types of headaches.

1. Posture

Poor posture, specifically Upper Cross Syndrome which involves forward head posture, increased neck lordosis, increased thoracic kyphosis (hunched mid-back) and protracted (rolled forward) shoulders. This is common in people who sit for prolonged periods of time, such as office workers, students, drivers or excessive phone, tablet or laptop usage. Due to this repetitive poor positioning, muscles such as the upper trapezius, levator scapula and pec minor tighten up which changes the biomechanics of the cervical spine. This in turn creates trigger points and vertebral joint segment restrictions which create a headache sensation.

2 . Breathing

Incorrect breathing patterns can cause certain muscles in your shoulder and neck to over work, leading to trigger points. When we inhale, our bellies are meant to bulge out as our respiratory diaphragm expands. What often happens instead is that we adopt a shallow breathing pattern, perhaps due to prolonged stress. As a result, our neck and shoulder muscles rise up and work overtime for a muscle action they aren’t designed to do (lifting up the ribcage for breathing). Assessing and correcting breathing patterns can allow the neck and shoulder muscles to work as efficiently as possible, minimising cervicogenic and tension headaches.

3. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) / Jaw issues

The muscles responsible for opening and closing your mouth have a strong connection with the neck and shoulder muscles, via fascia. Fascia is continuous connective tissue that enwraps individual muscles and connects them together. Individuals with TMJ issues may have trouble opening and closing their mouth because muscles such as the masseter, temporalis, diagastric and pterygoid muscles are tight, pulling onto the muscles around the shoulder and neck. As a result, headaches occur as a referred muscle pain from the tension in the shoulder and neck. Correcting muscular and joint restrictions around the jaw with myofascial release, craniosacral therapy and adjustments can then help relieve headaches that have a TMJ cause.

4. Stress

Higher stress levels increase the pain sensitivity of the nerves especially around the head, leading to intense headaches or migraines. As someone’s stress levels increase, the Reticular Alarm System (RAS) which is a network of neurons located in the brainstem, can increase the myofascial tension at the base of the skull, around C0-1-2. This area is a region where important vascular, neural and muscular structures pass through. Any sort of compression onto the structures in this area can then lead to an intense headache sensation. In individuals with higher stress levels, we often find that the occipital cranial base is compressed. After this restriction is corrected, many people find relief with their headache if it has some involvement with stress.

Here at Hyper Health, headaches are a specialty area that our Chiropractors and Physiotherapists can treat effectively. You may require myofascial release, trigger point therapy, cervical adjustment or craniosacral therapy depending on the presentation of your condition. Our clinic is located in Marrickville, servicing the Inner West suburbs of Sydney. If you have any further questions about how we can help with your headache, head over to our Contact Us page, or book in now to make an appointment.

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