Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints with most people experience them at some point in their lives. Headaches can affect anyone regardless of age, race, and gender. Almost half of all adults worldwide will experience at least one headache in any given year. A headache can be a sign of stress or emotional tension, or it can result from a medical disorder, such as migraine or high blood pressure, anxiety, or depression. Headaches can lead to other problems and can make it hard to attend work or school regularly.
There are many types of headaches, headaches can be primary, when they are not caused by another condition, or secondary, when there is a further underlying cause. Primary headaches are caused directly by the over-activity of, or problems with, structures in the head or neck that are pain-sensitive. This includes the blood vessels, muscles, and nerves of the head and neck. They may also result from changes in chemical activity in the brain. Common primary headaches include;
Secondary headaches are symptoms that happen when another condition stimulates the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. In other words, the headache symptoms can be attributed to another cause. A wide range of different factors can cause secondary headaches. These may include:
- alcohol-induced hangover
- brain tumor
- blood clots
- bleeding in or around the brain
- brain freeze or ice-cream headaches
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- teeth-grinding at night
- overuse of pain medication, known as rebound headaches
- panic attacks
Headaches can be a symptom of a more serious condition, therefore; it is important to seek medical advice if they become more severe or persistent. If a headache is more painful and disruptive than previous headaches, is severe and sudden, worsens, or fails to improve with medication or is accompanied by other symptoms such as confusion, fever, sensory changes, and stiffness in the neck, a doctor should be contacted immediately as they could be due to severe or life threatening condition.
Physical therapy intervention can be an extremely helpful tool for those individuals suffering from tension type and cervicogenic headaches. In some instances, individuals with migraine headaches may benefit from physical therapy intervention to decrease the irritation of nerves (branches of the trigeminal nerve) which may contribute to stimulation of migraine headaches.