What is Migraine?
Migraine is a chronic disorder that affects the nervous system. It features recurring episodes of severe head pain and other related symptoms.
People with migraines usually experience pain on just one side of the head. The pain often feels like a throbbing ache, ranging from moderate to severe intensity. This discomfort frequently leads people to avoid daily activities, such as going to work or school.
Along with head pain, sufferers often experience:
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Sensitivity to noise (phonophobia)
Migraine episodes can last from four hours to, in extreme instances, three days.
What is Migraine with Aura?
Some people experience a phenomenon known as aura before a migraine begins. Auras include a mix of visual, sensory, and sometimes motor disturbances. All these symptoms are temporary and can show up to an hour before the migraine starts.
Visual symptoms might involve seeing spots or flashes of light. Sensory signs often include tingling or numbness. For motor symptoms, people might experience dizziness or speech issues.
What Causes Migraine?
The exact cause of migraines remains uncertain. One theory suggests that a process called cortical spreading depression may be responsible. In this process, a wave of reduced electrical activity moves across the brain’s grey matter. Certain cells then release substances that irritate brain stem nerves, triggering headaches.
Research identifies three main factors contributing to migraines:
- Pain-inducing structures in the head
- Pain-inducing structures in the neck
- The chemical serotonin
These factors may combine differently to produce the various forms of migraine and headaches. The range of symptoms among different types of headaches complicates diagnosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Migraine
Several indicators help in diagnosing migraines:
- Attacks lasting from 4 to 72 hours
- One-sided, shifting, or pulsating headaches
- Moderate to severe pain hindering daily activities
- Worsening of symptoms due to physical activity
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Vision disturbances or aura, usually preceding the migraine
Migraine manifests differently for each individual. So, your treatment should also be tailored to you. For professional advice, consult your healthcare provider.
How to Diagnose Migraine
To avoid misdiagnosis, it’s crucial to observe more than one symptom. Remember, not all criteria must be met for a migraine diagnosis. A General Practitioner (GP) can direct you to a Neurologist specialising in migraines for more focused care.
Headaches and migraines can stem from a variety of factors. These include conditions related to the neck and jaw. Some specific types you might experience are neck, tension, cluster, and migraines.
Neck-related issues like neck pain, facet dysfunction, and pinched nerves can also lead to headaches. Additionally, jaw conditions such as TMJ pain and dysfunction can cause jaw headaches.
Headache Symptoms Differ
Identifying a headache's location, duration, and intensity can help pinpoint potential causes and effective treatments. This information isn't definitive but helps distinguish possible headache or migraine types.
Common Headache Types
Tension-type headaches usually feel like a band across the forehead, extending into the neck. They are continuous, non-pulsating, and may be accompanied by neck or shoulder tenderness, but not nausea or increased sensory sensitivity.
TMJ or jaw-related headaches are localised around the jaw and ear, affecting one side. They often come with jaw movement issues, chewing difficulties, or sensations of clicking, locking, and catching in the jaw. TMJ physiotherapists and your dentist are good practitioners to start with to assess and treat your TMJ headache.
Neck headaches (cervicogenic headaches) are typically a steady, non-throbbing pain at the skull's base, around one eye, or over the top of the head. They may also involve limited neck mobility, but this is not essential. your physiotherapist is best person to see for assessing and relieving your neck headache.
Cluster headaches are intensely concentrated around one eye. Accompanying symptoms can include a runny nose, drooping or reddened eye, or increased facial perspiration.
Concussion-related headaches resemble migraines with a throbbing sensation and are closely linked to concussions. If these headaches worsen, or if symptoms like slurred speech, seizures, or unusual behaviour occur, seek medical attention immediately.
Sinus headaches are characterised by pain, pressure, or fullness from the sinuses, often worsening when bending forward or lying down. They can also cause toothache-like pain or nasal congestion.
Migraines often affect one side of the head, involving the entire side of the head and face. They can occur with or without visual disturbances (aura) and include symptoms like nausea and sensitivity to light and noise.
The causes of headaches and migraines vary, as do their treatments. Consult a healthcare practitioner such as your physiotherapist or doctor for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plans. Understanding these differences is essential for effective headache management and relief.
- Migraine vs Headache
- Specific Migraine - Headache Types
- Neck Headache
- Tension Headache
- Cluster Headaches
- Vestibular Migraine
- TMJ Headache
When Should You Worry About a Headache?
In a small number of patients, your head pain might have a serious cause that needs investigation. These are called Red Flags, as they can be important signs of underlying conditions like brain tumors, aneurysms, strokes, meningitis, and other systemic illnesses. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek urgent advice from your healthcare professional.
Thoroughly investigate any Red Flags!
We strongly recommend that you ask your doctor to investigate your headaches if they have any of these characteristics:
- The worst headache you've ever had or a different type from your usual.
- Your headache is triggered by exertion (like exercise, coughing, sneezing, or sex).
- You're over 50 years old.
- Your headache persists despite treatment.
- It came on suddenly.
- You have central nervous system findings, such as motor weakness, memory loss, or slurred speech.
- You have HIV or another compromised immune system.
- You have a fever or other systemic symptoms, like weight loss or a rash.
If you have any of these Headache Red Flags symptoms, please consult your doctor immediately.
Less Urgent & Severe Headache Types
Fortunately, most headaches don't need urgent medical investigation and should improve with proper treatment once accurately diagnosed.
For specific advice, consult your doctor or a headache physiotherapist.
Experiencing a Headache or Migraine?
Understand Your Options
Headaches and migraines are more than just a nuisance; they can significantly disrupt your daily life. When you start experiencing these symptoms, it's imperative to seek medical advice. Doctors often recommend neurological assessments and may suggest a CT or MRI scan. These scans are vital for excluding serious conditions like aneurysms or tumours. Most of the time, fortunately, the results are normal.
What to Do When Your Scans Are Clear
Getting a clear scan result brings a sigh of relief, eliminating concerns about serious underlying causes. Yet, the task of identifying the source of your headaches or migraines remains.
Identifying the Root Cause of Your Headache
At PhysioWorks, we understand that diagnosing the root cause of headaches is a key step in treatment. We primarily focus on three types of headaches:
Understanding Neck-Related Headaches
Researchers feel that about one in four headaches is linked to neck issues. A thorough neck examination by a skilled headache physiotherapist is crucial. In many cases, the physiotherapist can diagnose and begin treating your neck headache from the first consultation.
Neck Headache: A Deeper Insight
Neck headaches, or cervicogenic headaches, often originate from neck joints, muscles, or ligaments. Symptoms include pain starting at the back of the head, radiating forwards, neck stiffness, and sometimes shoulder or arm pain. Physiotherapy techniques like manual therapy, specific exercises, and posture correction can provide significant relief.
Related article: Neck Headaches
Tension-Type Headaches: Understanding and Management
Tension-type headaches, marked by a band-like pain around the head, are frequently associated with stress, poor posture, and muscular tension. Physiotherapy plays a critical role in managing these headaches, offering stress-reduction techniques, ergonomic advice, and exercises to improve posture and muscle function.
Related article: Tension-Type Headaches
TMJ Headaches: The Role of Physiotherapy
TMJ headaches, stemming from jaw joint and muscle issues, present symptoms like facial pain, jaw clicking, and chewing difficulties. Physiotherapists, with a skillset in jaw disorders, offer specialised exercises, manual therapy, and advice to improve jaw function.
Related article: TMJ headaches
Latest Research and Developments
Recent studies underscore the effectiveness of physiotherapy in headache management. Techniques such as dry needling, acupuncture, specific neck and shoulder exercises, posture correction, and relaxation strategies have shown promise in reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches.
Conclusion: Seeking Professional Help
Managing headaches and migraines often requires a targeted approach. Physiotherapy offers a range of treatments customised to your needs. If headaches or migraines are affecting your life, consider consulting a qualified headache physiotherapist. This could be a significant step towards a pain-free life. However, always start with a doctor's consultation to exclude any serious underlying conditions.
Call to Action: Consult a Professional
Don't let headaches dictate your life. Reach out to a headache physiotherapist or your doctor today to embark on your journey to recovery and improved quality of life. Remember, investing in your health is paramount.
What to Do? Seek Professional Advice from Your Physiotherapist
If you're struggling with headaches or migraines, the first step is to consult a physiotherapist specialised in headache management. They can provide a comprehensive assessment and tailor a treatment plan suited to your specific needs, incorporating the latest research and techniques. Booking a consultation can be your first step towards finding relief and regaining control of your life.
For more details on specific headache types, migraine comparisons, and frequently asked questions, visit our website for comprehensive guides on: