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Spine Institute
Glendale Adventist Medical Center
1500 E. Chevy Chase Drive, Suite 401B
Glendale, CA 91206
Ph: (818) 863-4444

Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
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Healing Hands Help Headaches

Posted on: 01/30/2003
Headaches happen to almost everyone at some point. Among the most common kinds are migraine headaches and tension headaches. Almost one-fourth of all headaches come from neck joints or muscles. These are called cervicogenic headaches.

In a cervicogenic headache, the patient's pain commonly begins in the neck and spreads to the head. It ranges from a dull, deep ache to severe, heavy pressure. The pain usually stays on one side of the head, and the patient often reports dizziness and lightheadedness. These symptoms are similar to migraine headaches -- but the treatment is much different.

Physical therapy is a proven treatment for cervicogenic headaches. The therapist can actually produce the pain by pressing on tender muscles or moving the neck in a certain position. The therapist must examine each patient with headache pain carefully. Finding those who can be helped by physical therapy is important.

The physical therapy program for headaches has several parts. Treatment includes restoring normal motion to the joints, improving posture, and strengthening muscles. Controlling the use of muscles and coordinating their actions is also part of the program. For those who sit at a desk or computer, the therapist usually offers training in reducing strain on the muscles and joints.

Physical therapy to improve joint motion can help reduce some types of headache pain. Improving how and when the muscles contract is part of this success. Using tests and measures, the therapist attempts to find the exact cause of the problem. This makes a specific treatment approach possible.

Shannon M. Petersen, MPT, OCS, COMT. Articular and Muscular Impairments in Cervicogenic Headache: A Case Report. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. January 2003. Vol. 33. No. 1. Pp. 21-30.

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