Blog | How To Keep the Lid on a Headache

Headaches affect 47% of the global population on a regular basis. Some people suffer from them monthly, weekly and sometimes even daily, and the headache can range from being a nuisance to being completely debilitating, disrupting your ability to drive, work, concentrate, do daily chores or even stand upright. The most difficult thing about headaches is that there is so much variety between individuals, in terms of headache types, symptoms and triggers, it makes them very hard to diagnose correctly, and therefore often treatments are unsuccessful.

One of the most common headaches generates from issues in the soft tissue structures around your neck, and your Physiotherapist is well-trained in not only being able to diagnose these types of headaches but also in treating them through soft tissue manipulation and being able to give you exercises to help strengthen weak muscles and prevent the headaches in the future. Unfortunately, many people end up resorting to medications, home remedies and treatments, expensive examinations or investigations, costly changes to bedding and pillows and even visits to the dentist for gum guards to prevent clenching or teeth grinding.

Sometimes we try and brush things off as an inevitable consequence of our ‘life’ be it your job, stress level, or the amount of time you spend sitting in front of a computer. But living with headaches doesn’t have to be a case of ‘suck it up and deal with it’. There is a lot of research out there to support ways in which physical therapy can help you manage and prevent different types of headaches.

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In a small percentage of patients there is unfortunately a sinister cause of your head pain, which should be thoroughly investigated. There are ‘Red Flags’ which are important signs of a possible, more ominous, underlying condition (eg. aneurysm, meningitis, tumour etc.) which need urgent investigation. Please seek the advice of your doctor as soon as possible, if you are concerned about any of these ‘Red Flags’ with include, a headache which is worse or a different headache to your usual or a sudden change in the type or pattern/intensity of your headaches. If you have a history of cancer, during or following pregnancy or if exertion triggers a headache. If associated weakness, memory loss, slurred speech are associated with your headache or you experience other symptoms such as a fever or a rash.

Fortunately, the vast majority of headaches do not require urgent medical investigation and should respond positively to treatment depending upon an accurate diagnosis.

The majority of headaches diagnosed are classified as migraines or tension type headache or cervicogenic headache (originating from the neck). Recent research has shown that all these headache types can be caused by a dysfunctional upper neck, which can cause an increase in surrounding muscle spasm causing pain in the head with or without experiencing neck pain.

Our Physiotherapists will be able to assess you and your history and symptoms and identify if your headaches or migraines are related to your neck. Remember every person and every headache is individual and may vary or present slightly differently from the norms but if your headache is coming from your neck then a Physiotherapist will be able to influence it. Finding the primary source or cause is the key to successful treatment. Physiotherapy hands on treatment, massage and specific exercises can eliminate, or at least in more severe cases reduce, the intensity and frequency of your pain. Physiotherapy has been shown over the years, both clinically and through research, to have beneficial effects for headaches.

Manual, hands-on therapy manipulating or mobilising your neck can be hugely beneficial in eliminating your headache; or at least reducing the intensity and duration of the headache. Soft tissue work including trigger point therapy and massage too can be effective in relieving spasm in the head and neck muscles possibly contributing to your headache. Massage has also been shown to help people cope better during headache episodes, reducing associated stress and anxiety. Acupuncture too can be extremely effective in helping the tension in the soft tissues of the neck.

Contributing factors to headaches have been shown to include poor postures and repetitive movements that may strain your neck. These could include desk or computer set up, studying and working with a chin forward/poking chin posture, bad ergonomics at work, constantly turning to one side, looking up for long periods or similarly constantly looking down.

Any one of these postures or bad habits can cause muscle spasm, muscle imbalance and weakness as well as strain the joints in your neck all of which can refer pain to the head and result in headache. Your Physiotherapist can identify poor posture and muscle weakness as well as assess your work or home space and daily activities where they can give advice to make corrections and perform corrective exercises.


If you suffer from regular headaches, don’t despair. There are treatments and advice you can receive from your Back in Motion headache specialist Physiotherapists to help manage your headaches. We give 10 minutes of free consultation advice so if you wish to discuss your symptoms with us first then please book online or call your nearest clinic.

To access further resources on headaches from Back in Motion click on this link :

If you have any questions please get in touch by calling 01953 604 331 or emailing us on

To begin your treatment plan, please call your nearest practice for bookings or further information.