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Sunday, 12 June 2016

5 Physiotherapy tips for prevention and management of tension headaches

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 47% of the adult population suffers from a headache at least once during a year.

Specifically, tension-type headaches are the most common forms of headaches treated by physiotherapists, due to their cause being related to muscular tension or a musculoskeletal problem in the neck.

These headaches can be suffered by up to 70% of the population due to the high prevalence of office workers and sedentary related jobs.

This blog post will explain 5 ways tension headaches could be managed conservatively

1. Ergonomic desk environment
Anyone who works in an office will have heard someone in management talking to you about good ergonomic seating and posture, but what does it really mean? It means that for you to be comfortably seated at your desk and to minimise risk of overuse type injuries, such as headaches, then you need to have your desk specifically set up for you.

The picture (below) shows a correct ergonomic posture. It includes having your eyes at the center of the computer screen and the distances of your screen and mouse at specific distances from you. You also must ensure that your feet are comfortably on the ground and that your bottom is in the back of the seat.

It may seem uncomfortable compared to what you are used to, but once you get the hang of it you will find you get less tension-related headaches.

2. Lumbar support

Lumbar support can make a world of difference to both headache and neck pain, but also to ongoing back pain. A lot of people think that their chair already has lumbar support, so how would extra support help? However, most chairs, be it office chairs, car seats or chairs around the house, do not provide the amount of support needed to keep your spine in the correct position. Anyone who I have recommended a lumbar support to has always raved about how comfortable they feel, and how easy it becomes to sit up straight at their desk!

3. Neck exercises and mini breaks
Mini breaks are great for posture and tension related neck and headache problems. All it takes is stopping what you are doing every 20-30 minutes and turning your head fully one way and then the other (and possibly standing and sitting back down), and then back to work. This keeps your neck joints moving, stopping them from stiffening and relieves the muscles that hold your head up in that position all day.

4. Correct pillows
If you often wake with neck pain and stiffness, then your pillow could be to blame. The rule of thumb is that your head should be resting in a position of rest for the spine. That is if you lie on your back, your neck should be cradled and your head should neither be tilted downward or upward. This is the same if you were to lie on your side. You don’t need fancy pillows to achieve this, all you need is someone to check where your head position is, and then to add/remove a thinner or thicker pillow as necessary. Ergonomic pillows are also available to provide correct neck support.

5. Heat
This tip won’t prevent neck pain, but I find that if you rest with a wheat-bag draped across your shoulders/neck for 20 minutes at a time, there is often relief of pain and also decreased muscle spasm and increased range of movement.



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