Unfortunately most people experience headaches at some time in their lives. Luckily Osteopathy can assist with treatment that may help reduce headaches without the use of medication. Many people suffer from ongoing headaches (such as migraines and tension headaches) that interrupt their daily life for weeks or even years. Others experience occasional headaches that appear all of a sudden and have a big impact over a short space of time.

According to the World Health Organisation, the majority of headaches are caused by joint strain, muscle tension and stiffness originating from the neck and upper back that build up over time.

Headaches can also be caused by:

  • poor posture
  • stress
  • eye strain
  • sinus congestion
  • whiplash injury
  • infection
  • jaw imbalance and teeth grinding
  • allergies and food intolerances
  • hormonal imbalance
  • overuse of medication


What is the difference between a Migraine and Tension Headache?

According to Medline Plus tension headaches are some of the most common forms of headaches and are likely to be caused by tight muscles in your head, neck, shoulders and jaw. Tension headaches are usually felt as mild to moderate pain that often starts at the back of the head and moves toward the front of the head with either a dull or squeezing pain that can be felt on one or both sides. 

Migraine headaches are characterised by severe pain that usually occurs with other symptoms such as changes in vision, sensitivity to light or sound and nausea. Pain associated with a migraine is often described as a throbbing, pounding or pulsating pressure that is normally felt on one side of the head but can migrate to both sides as the headache progresses. Migraines 

How can Osteopathy help?

Osteopaths work with your bones, joints, muscles, nerves, connective tissue and circulation to help your body function the way it’s meant to. Stressed or strained muscles often form trigger points which are tender spots in a muscle belly that when over-stimulated refer pain to another part of the body. In particular, the trapezius muscle, sternocleidomastoid muscle and sub-occipital muscles are some of the more common muscles that can be a source of referred pain to the head.

     Image: Head and Neck Trigger Points by: http://www.triggerpoints.net

By reducing the impact of trigger points and releasing joint strain and muscle tension osteopaths are often able to ease headaches related to restrictions in your neck which can also assist with alleviating inflammation in the surrounding tissues.

Depending on the cause of your headache, your osteopath may work through your neck, ribs and upper back to help decrease muscle tension in your head and neck and improve blood flow to and from your head. 

You may also be given exercises and stretches to help prevent symptoms recurring or be advised on correct posture and ergonomics within your home and work environment. These muscles in your head and neck can often become stiff due to repetitive strain placed on the body from sitting at computers, poor posture and stress. If relevant your osteopath may also suggest diet or lifestyle changes that can assist with prevention of future headaches.

Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint what is triggering your headaches. A headache diary can help you work out when and why headaches occur. Record the severity, duration and frequency of your headaches as well as things you have done that day. Sometimes a diary can help you to see patterns you may have otherwise missed. You can download a copy of the editable NPS Medicinewise Headache Diary here

Osteopaths are primary healthcare practitioners and are trained to recognise conditions that require medical referral. We are trained to perform standard medical examinations of the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems to differentiate between general musculoskeletal aches and pains and those that require further investigation.

If your headache is accompanied with any of the below symptoms than please see your doctor as soon as possible:

  • fever
  • severe nausea or vomiting
  • bleeding or fluid draining from the nose or ears
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision or speech
  • numbness, tingling or paralysis

Our osteopaths are passionate about working with you to find the cause of your headaches. If you’re tired of dealing with persistent headaches and migraines and don’t want to continually take medication to ease things then we’d love to chat to you to see if we can help which is why we are offering a FREE 10 minute phone consultation with one of our practitioners! If you’re interested in having a chat with one of our passionate Osteopaths about your migraine and headache issues, simply fill in the form below. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Yes I would like a FREE 10 minute phone consultation!

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Research Links

World Health Organisation Headache Factsheet

Spinal manipulations for tension-type headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22579436

Efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic headache: a systematic review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11562654

A comparison of selected osteopathic treatment and relaxation for tension-type headaches: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16942472