Headaches and Osteopathy
Headaches are one of the most common reasons for patients seeing their GP. Although it is a common symptom, the causes and types of headache are quite varied.
The majority of headache sufferers have tension headaches. The muscles at the back of the neck become tense either as a result of a strain or injury or because of stress. The suboccipital muscles, which run from the back of the skull to the top of the neck, can compress the occipital nerve when they are tense, which then causes pain in the back of the head.
These can be very debilitating but vary in the way they present. Symptoms often include a one-sided headache, sometimes with nausea, vomiting, visual disturbance (e.g. flashing lights and wavy lines) and photophobia (people with photophobia have to avoid bright light). Migraines can be triggered by certain foods – chocolate, cheese and oranges are common ones. Some women suffer migraines at the same time of the month and these are linked with hormones. Some migraine sufferers have problems in the neck and upper back which seem to cause or aggravate their headaches. These are the ones which are most likely to benefit from osteopathy.
A particularly painful type of headache is trigeminal neuralgia. This usually causes severe pain in one side of the face. Depending on which portion of the trigeminal nerve is affected, it will cause pain in the lower jaw, cheek area or around the eye. Some cases of trigeminal neuralgia can be associated with jaw joint (tempero-mandibular or TMJ) problems and may need dental help. In other cases there can be problems with the top joint of the neck (occipito-atlantal joint). Osteopathic treatment aimed at improving mobility of this joint can help to relieve trigeminal neuralga.
Medical treatment with steroids is the usual treatment for temporal arteritis. This is a rheumatological condition which effects older people and causes severe facial pain.
Other types of headaches may be amenable to ostepathic treatment. If you are unsure, please feel free to call the surgery and ask to speak to one of the osteopaths.