Headache 1

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

Severe Headache Symptoms

When Should You Worry About a Headache?

Experiencing a headache can range from a mild inconvenience to a warning sign of a serious health issue. It's important to distinguish between common headaches and those that require immediate attention. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the severe headache symptoms, the latest research, and the effective role of physiotherapy in headache management.

severe headache symptoms
Investigating Severe Headache Symptoms

Severe Headache Causes and Identifying Red Flags

A headache can range from a mild, occasional annoyance to a symptom of a severe health condition. Recognising the red flags is crucial for timely intervention. The causes of severe headaches can include brain tumours, aneurysms, strokes, meningitis, and other systemic illnesses. If your headache presents with the following features, it's time to seek medical advice:

  1. Unprecedented Severity: The worst headache you’ve ever had or a type that's different from your usual ones.
  2. Triggered by Exertion: Includes headaches induced by exercise, coughing, sneezing, or sexual activity.
  3. Age-Related Concerns: Especially if you’re over 50 years old.
  4. Persistent Despite Treatment: When headaches don’t subside even after standard treatment.
  5. Sudden Onset: A headache that appears abruptly and intensely.
  6. Neurological Symptoms: Includes motor weakness, memory loss, or slurred speech.
  7. Compromised Immune System: Particularly in individuals with HIV or similar conditions.
  8. Accompanied by Systemic Symptoms: Such as fever, weight loss, or a rash.

Latest Research in Headache Management

Recent studies emphasise the role of physiotherapy plays in managing headaches, especially tension-type headaches, TMJ headaches and cervicogenic headaches.

Techniques like manual therapy, postural correction, and specific exercises can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of these headaches.

Physiotherapy's Role in Headache Management

As physiotherapists, we focus on identifying and treating the physical factors contributing to headaches. This approach may include:

  • Postural Analysis and Correction: Poor posture can lead to tension-type headaches.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques like soft tissue work and joint mobilisation can relieve headache symptoms.
  • Exercise Therapy: Tailored exercises to strengthen and relax the muscles around the neck and shoulders.
  • Education and Lifestyle Changes: Advice on ergonomics, relaxation techniques, and hydration.

Less Urgent and Severe Headache Types

Not all headaches are indicative of a severe condition. Common types such as migraines, tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches, while distressing and disruptive, often don't signal underlying diseases. These headaches typically respond positively to a combination of medication, physiotherapy, and lifestyle adjustments.

Migraines, characterised by intense, throbbing pain often on one side of the head, can persist for hours or even days. They may be accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, and at times, nausea. Migraines are multifaceted and can be triggered by various factors, including stress, hormonal fluctuations, or certain foods and drinks.

Tension-type headaches are the most common. They generally feel like a constant ache or pressure around the forehead, temples, or back of the head and neck. Often linked to stress or poor posture, these headaches can last from minutes to days.

Cluster headaches are rarer but can be excruciatingly painful. Occurring in cyclical patterns or clusters, these headaches are marked by intense burning or piercing pain behind or around one eye. They can be so severe that they're sometimes referred to as 'suicide headaches.'

Despite their severity, these types of headaches usually don't originate from serious medical conditions. They respond well to a holistic approach:

  1. Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers are often effective. For frequent or severe migraines, prescription medications may be necessary.
  2. Physiotherapy: This plays a crucial role, especially for tension-type and cervicogenic headaches. Physiotherapists employ techniques like manual therapy, specific exercises, and advice on posture and ergonomics to alleviate pain and prevent recurrence.
  3. Lifestyle Modifications: Simple lifestyle changes can significantly help. Regular physical activity, adequate hydration, sufficient sleep, stress management, and dietary modifications can aid in managing and reducing the frequency of these headaches.

Understanding these less severe types of headaches is key to effective management. While they may not indicate a severe health issue, their impact on life quality can be substantial. Through a combination of medical, physiotherapeutic, and lifestyle interventions, individuals suffering from these headaches can achieve relief and enhance their daily lives.

What to Do? Seeking Professional Advice

If you're experiencing any red flag symptoms or are concerned about your headaches, it's crucial to consult with a doctor. A physiotherapist can offer a comprehensive assessment and create a tailored treatment plan to address your specific needs. They can also work in conjunction with your doctor to ensure a holistic approach to your headache management.


Understanding the signs of a severe headache and seeking timely professional advice is vital for your health. While many headaches are benign and manageable, always pay attention to the red flags. With the help of physiotherapy and medical intervention, most headaches can be effectively treated, allowing you to return to your normal life.

For more detailed information and specific advice, visit PhysioWorks, where you can find a wealth of resources on headache management and physiotherapy treatments.

Remember: When in doubt, always consult your doctor or a physiotherapist to ensure the best care for your health.

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