Treatment for Headaches
Headaches and migraines are a frequent complaint, however not
something for which one would often see a physiotherapist, rather
seeking medical management or putting up with the pain and symptoms.
At Body Mechanics however, treating headaches is a core part of our
business, and something we do (successfully) every day.
While cervicogenic headache is generally (and etymologically)
associated with neck dysfunction, there is growing evidence that
other types of primary headache are neurologically intertwined with
the upper neck. This includes tension and cluster headache, and the
various migraines. How can this be the case?
The nerve that supplies most of the sensation of the head, mouth and
jaw is the fifth cranial, or trigeminal nerve. At the same time,
information from the first three joints of the neck, including the
articulation between the skull and the spine, comes into the spinal
cord and meets up with the trigeminal nerve in a sexy little bundle
of grey matter called the cervicotrigeminal nucleus. From here the
tracts head north together for processing by the brain.
Dysfunction of the upper three vertebrae can sensitise the
cervicotrigeminal nucleus (CTN) which has an end result of a lot of
non-noxious (i.e not normally painful) information being amplified as
threatening. This information going through the nucleus, whether
it’s from the face, sinuses, or even cranial blood vessels, gets
tagged with with a danger message as it’s sent upstairs for
Ultimately, pain is an output of the brain in the presence of a
perceived danger or threat, and that action must be taken. Much of
the time, despite the barrage of loud and angry information
(nociception) coming up from a sensitised CTN, it may deem it as
non-threatening and push it aside. At other times however, with say
a hormonal shift or sudden increased stress or fatigue (long week at
work?), the brain’s interpretation will register danger and, as
such, outputs a pain message. Something must be done!
The problem is, the brain must decide where the pain is for something
to be done and, given the torrent of information, it is hard to be
specific. As a result the pain is represented where you are most
likely to appreciate the danger - thus it is represented in the head.
The representations and behaviours of head pain are thankfully fairly
predictable which enables the physios to do one of two things.
Firstly it enables us to easily diagnose the sensitising segment or
segments and treat the underlying dysfunction. Secondly, in
extremely rare cases, it enables us to quickly identify secondary or
malignant causes and refer appropriately. As a result physiotherapy
is a safe and effective intervention for head and face pain, and the
physios at Body Mechanics take great pride in having it as their
Please contact us on (07) 3862 6238.