Tension Headache

Tension Headache

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

Tension Headache: A Physiotherapist’s Guide to Relief

What is a Tension Headache?

Tension headaches, a prevalent form of headache, impact up to 80% of people. Less intense than migraines, these headaches can still hamper daily life, particularly when frequent or chronic.

Identifying Symptoms

Typically, tension headaches manifest as a gentle to moderate pressing feeling across the head. Differing from migraines, they rarely feature light and sound sensitivity or nausea, but can become chronic, lasting many days a year.

The Complexity of Mixed Headache Disorders

Tension headaches can coincide with other headache types, like neck headaches and migraines. Pinpointing the main cause is essential for effective treatment.

Diagnosing Tension-Type Headaches

Diagnosis hinges on symptom patterns and treatment responses, with no single test definitive for tension headaches. Imaging like X-rays and MRIs may uncover underlying causes but aren’t direct diagnostic tools.

Physiotherapist treatment for patient for tension headache
Effective Physiotherapy For Tension Headache Relief

Role of Physiotherapy and Massage in Treatment

Physiotherapy and massage are pivotal in easing tension headaches by reducing muscle stiffness. Methods include joint mobilisation, muscle stretching, acupuncture, dry needling, posture correction, and neck-strengthening exercises.

Personalised Assessment and Treatment

Physiotherapy begins with a thorough assessment to pinpoint specific factors causing tension headaches. This personalised approach ensures treatment is uniquely tailored, addressing individual triggers and conditions.

Manual Therapy and Exercise

Key physiotherapy techniques include manual therapy to relieve muscle tension and improve joint mobility. Physiotherapists also guide patients in exercises that strengthen and stretch neck and shoulder muscles, promoting better posture and reducing future headache risks.

Trigger Point Therapy

This method focuses on tender muscle spots that can cause headache pain. Physiotherapists use targeted pressure to alleviate these trigger points, offering both immediate and long-term relief.

Educational Insights

Physiotherapy educates patients about headache triggers like posture, eye strain, and stress. This knowledge enables patients to make lifestyle changes, reducing headache occurrence.

Advanced Techniques: Acupuncture and Dry Needling

Some physiotherapists incorporate acupuncture or dry needling, providing additional pain relief and cumulative benefits over time.

Physiotherapy for tension headaches not only offers immediate pain relief but also equips patients with the knowledge and skills to manage their condition, improving overall health and preventing future headaches. Through hands-on treatment, exercises, and education, it presents a comprehensive approach to headache management.

When to Seek Further Help

If these therapies don’t bring relief, consulting a healthcare professional is key. Persistent headaches might require a doctor’s review, potentially leading to a neurologist referral.

The Impact of Pillows on Tension Headaches

Choosing the right pillow for you is vital. An unsuitable pillow can exacerbate headaches, so finding one that supports your neck properly is crucial for prevention and restful sleep.

More info: Finding Your Best Pillow

Recent Research in Tension Headache Management

Latest studies highlight the success of physiotherapy targeting the cervical and upper thoracic spine, showing significant reductions in tension headache frequency and severity.

Preventing Tension Headaches

Lifestyle modifications — regular exercise, good posture, hydration, consistent sleep patterns, and stress management — are key in preventing tension headaches.

What to Do? Seeking Professional Advice

Consult a physiotherapist or doctor if you suspect a tension headache. Your physiotherapist can offer bespoke exercises, posture advice, and hands-on therapy. Keeping a headache diary can also help identify triggers and patterns.


While common, tension headaches need not drastically impact your life. Recognising symptoms, early intervention, and preventive steps can markedly enhance life quality. Remember, your physiotherapist is a vital ally in managing these headaches.

Related Articles

  1. What Causes Cervicogenic Headache? Discover the root causes of cervicogenic headaches and how physiotherapy can address the cervical spine issues leading to pain relief.
  2. How Do You Get Rid of a Neck Headache? Learn about effective physiotherapy treatments for neck headaches, including manual therapy, exercises, and posture correction techniques.
  3. When Should You Be Concerned About a Headache? This article explains when a headache could be a sign of a more serious condition, guiding you on when to seek further medical advice.
  4. What is TMJ Headache? Explore the connection between temporomandibular joint disorders and headaches, and how physiotherapy can help alleviate TMJ related pain.
  5. Headache or Migraine? What to Do? Understand the differences between headaches and migraines, including specific symptoms and tailored physiotherapy approaches for each.
  6. The Role of Posture in Headache Prevention: Find out how poor posture can contribute to headaches and learn strategies to improve your posture and reduce headache frequency.
  7. Exercise as a Remedy for Headache Relief: Discover how regular exercise can help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches, including specific workouts recommended by physiotherapists.
  8. Sleep and Its Role in Managing Headaches. Learn about the relationship between sleep patterns and headaches, including advice on creating a sleep environment that can help minimize headache occurrence.

Article by Matthew Hewitt

Headache Causes

Headaches and migraines, unfortunately common, can greatly affect our lives. Understanding their types and causes is key to effective management and treatment.

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.

headache causes
Headache Causes

Common Headache Types

Tension-Type Headaches

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.

Jaw Headache

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 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 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 Headache

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 Headache

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.

In Conclusion

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.

General Information

Headache FAQs

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

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:

Headache Migraine Treatment
Managing Headache &Amp; Migraines

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.

Related Articles

  1. Neck Headache - This page provides an in-depth look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for neck-related headaches, which are often a result of issues with the neck joints, muscles, or ligaments​​.
  2. TMJ Headache - Readers will find information on how TMJ disorders can lead to headaches, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for jaw-related headache issues​​.
  3. Tension Headache Relief: Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment: Offers insights into tension-type headaches, including their causes, symptoms, and how physiotherapy can play a crucial role in managing these headaches​​.
  4. Migraine - Provides an overview of migraines, discussing their impact, the importance of medical advice, and physiotherapy's role in managing migraine symptoms​​.
  5. Cluster Headaches - Understanding And Managing The Pain: This article explores the severe nature of cluster headaches, their symptoms, and the potential for physiotherapy to aid in management and relief​​.
  6. Choosing The Right Pillow For Neck Support – Find Relief Now: Discusses how the right pillow can prevent neck pain and headaches, highlighting the importance of neck support for overall well-being​​.

Additional Information

For more details on specific headache types, migraine comparisons, and frequently asked questions, visit our website for comprehensive guides on: