Headache Relief and Osteopathy

written by Katolen Yardley, DO (EU), MNIMH, RH (AHG)

~ Manual Osteopathic Practitioner

Many people seek out Osteopathy for relief from chronic headaches. Headaches can often be caused by increased tension of the muscles of the neck which then compress the nerves leaving the upper neck to supply the head. 

There are numerous types of headaches including:

  • Congestion in the frontal or maxillary sinuses can lead to sinus headaches. An article from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association speaks to the benefit of osteopathy and chronic sinusitis.
  • Classic Tension headaches may present with constant pain, lightheadedness, neck and back tension. These symptoms are worsened by stress, anxiety and worry.
  • Hangover headaches: related to alcohol ingestion and dehydration resulting in a dilation of blood vessels.
  • Hunger headache: a result of low ingestion of food, lack of food intake and low blood sugar.
  • Cluster headaches: a sensation of throbbing around the eyes, nasal congestion and tearing.
  • Headaches can also be related to TMJ disorder, arthritis, hypertension, and eyestrain.
  • Classic migraines which are associated with auras and visual disturbances, often present with a throbbing sensation and sensitivity to sound and light. There are many theories as to what can bring on a migraine. One thought is that spasms of the blood vessels and nerves within the skull may lead to migraines. Also known as vascular headaches, they can be brought on by excessive dilation or constriction of the blood vessels in the brain.

The next consideration is that there are many lifestyle triggers including but not limited to: chocolate, stress, aged cheese, coffee, red wine, undiagnosed food allergies, perfumes and sensitivities to pollutants, artificial colorings, MSG, and monthly hormone fluctuations can be problematic. 

Do not despair or suffer from chronic disabling head pain, Osteopathic practitioners use a number of techniques to relieve the headache symptoms while it is the responsibility of the client to eliminate specific known headache triggers.

1. Cervical soft tissue massage of the paraspinal tissues of the neck may help to relieve the spasms of tension headaches.

2. Occipital decompression, Still point and Cranial Osteopathy techniques can provide relief for chronic head pain. Techniques that focus on relaxing and stretching the paraspinal tissues at the base of the occiput (the bone at the back of the head at the top of the neck) can offer relief for many types of headaches. A home care technique is for a client to roll up hand towel behind their neck to do occipital decompression at home, which helps prevent further headaches.

3. Spinal mobilization and muscle energy techniques – relieve muscle tension, assist with jaw, cervical spine and shoulder flexibility and movement and relieve pain.  

4. Myofascial unwinding can assist to unwind the tissues which are encasing spasming muscles.

A manual osteopathic practitioner can provide gentle focused treatment for the headaches and migraines. Learn more about Osteopathy and the benefits of osteopathy or book an appointment by emailing Alinear Osteopathy in Vancouver and Port Moody, BC.

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