Headaches are extremely common in both the athlete and non athlete. There are many causes of headache, among these the most common are:
- Cervical headache, referred from the neck
- Exercise related headache
- Vascular headache including migraine
- Viral conditions
- Serious medical causes such as tumours
Headaches are usually considered to be less severe than migraines with a lower intensity of pain, often aching in quality and variable in location. Headaches are not usually associated with visual changes or sensory disturbances and infrequently associated with nausea or vomiting.
A cervical headache is secondary to dysfunction of joints, muscles or nerves in the neck. Cervical headaches can be caused by irritation of these structures through postural loads seen with poor or prolonged sitting positions. Because of the way our nerves are arranged in the head and neck, pain in one area can refer to another part of the head e.g dysfunction in the upper neck can refer into the back of the head. This is made even more complicated when you look at the multiple numbers of inter-connections between the different nerves of the head and neck region. It should also be noted that the level of pain is a poor indicator of the severity of the problem, and that recurring, persisting, or sudden onset headaches always need to be properly investigated.
Management of cervical headaches is possible after a thorough history taking and physical examination by your physiotherapist or doctor. Your physiotherapist can assist with techniques involving soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, stretching, spinal stabilisation exercises, ergonomic changes to your work or recreational environment and activities to modify your posture.