For anyone that has experienced a migraine or constant headache, you know how debilitating the pain and discomfort can be. It can start as a dull background discomfort and work its way up to a throbbing pressure. This aching can be short-lived or last longer than a week. Physiotherapy can help manage pain and discomfort affecting your muscles and joints that are linked to your headache or migraine aches. In today’s blog, we want to outline the difference between headaches and migraines, some common causes of both, and how our physiotherapists can help reduce your symptoms.

Migraine Vs. Headache

It can be difficult to tell whether you are experiencing a migraine or a headache. When you are experiencing pressure in your head, it is actually quite important to differentiate between the two so that you can get proper treatment and faster pain relief. Knowing the difference between migraines and headaches will actually help our team prevent future pain from occurring. So, what is the difference then? Headaches are known as pain in your head that cause pressure and aching and is normally experienced on both sides of your head. Migraines are a type of headache that is much more severe and are usually coupled with other symptoms including nausea or vomiting, pain in the temple or behind one ear or eye, light sensitivity or seeing spots, and temporary vision loss.

There are many different types of headaches including tension headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and thunderclap headaches. Essentially, headaches normally affect both sides of your head while migraines usually impact one side so intensely that the throbbing will make performing daily tasks very challenging. If you want help deciding if your head pains are headaches or migraines, give us a call to book an initial consultation with our team! During your initial assessment with our LiveWell Waterloo physiotherapist team, we will take a complete history of your health to better understand the specifics of your pain and create a unique treatment plan.

Summer Headaches and Migraines

We want to explain that some of you may actually be experiencing more headaches and migraines than normal this time of the year. Some of our patients experience more frequent or longer pain in the summer and this is connected to heat exhaustion. In the summer sun and heat, our bodies have a harder time cooling off and can overheat which can result in heat exhaustion. If your body temperature becomes too much for our natural tools (like sweating and shivering) to regulate, heat is not disposed of fast enough and is instead absorbed. This leads to overheating and heat exhaustion which lists headaches as a common symptom and warning sign for immediate steps to relieve body temperature. Other heat-related triggers include dehydration, environmental pollution, high humidity, changing weather conditions, and overexposure to bright lights. To help prevent summer headaches and migraines we recommend making hydration a priority, minimizing direct sunlight, being aware of weather conditions, wearing sunglasses and hats, and adapting your routine to accommodate the heat.

Migraine and Headache Causes

Since everyone has a unique experience with migraines and headaches, there are multiple different causes that could trigger your pain. While some patients may suffer from head pain as a result of neck issues, others may experience migraines due to emotional anxiety or hormonal imbalance. Because of this wide array of triggers, the Absolute Rehab physiotherapy team will always begin by determining what is causing your migraines or headaches. This is an important first step in determining what treatments we recommend to help you fix any issues and prevent future pain. Other headache causes include poor posture, neck and upper back stiffness or previous injury, stress, dehydration, incorrect sleeping posture and pillows, poor desk setup and excessive slouching, and muscle imbalance, weakness, or tightness. On top of these triggers, migraines can also be a result of family history with migraines, decreases in serotonin levels, hormonal medication, eating processed or salty foods, drinking caffeine or alcohol, poor sleep patterns, and changes in your environment.

How Physiotherapy Can Help

Our LiveWell Waterloo physiotherapists can assess the possible causes of your headaches or migraines to determine the best treatment to reduce stress and tension. Since neck and upper back pain is often a contributing factor to migraines and headaches, we will focus our treatments on these areas. This will usually include gentle manual mobilization of neck and back joints through massage therapyacupuncture, and Pilates. The main goal in our migraine and headache treatment plans is to reduce the amount of pain in your neck nerves, muscles, and joints so that less pain is transferred to your head.

Studies have shown that proper and regular massage techniques will not only relieve symptoms for both headaches and migraines but can also offer protection against future pain. We also regularly recommend our patients try acupuncture because it can offer significant relief for chronic headache sufferers. Like massage therapy, acupuncture not only helps with immediate relief, but it can also help safeguard against future headaches and migraines as well. Our LiveWell Waterloo acupuncture team uses needles to stimulate certain trigger points to activate specific muscles and nerves which will promote blood flow and relax the problem areas. If your pain persists, we recommend trying our Pilates sessions to learn techniques to relieve long term head pain. Our sessions will help you learn mild exercises designed to increase mindfulness, relieve tension and stress, and improve posture and body alignment. At LiveWell Waterloo, we know how unique headache and migraine pain can be from patient to patient. We will always walk you through all of these options and tailor our treatment plan to your specific cases and needs.

We hope that this blog helped explain the difference between headaches and migraines, common causes, and all of the different treatment options LiveWell Waterloo can offer you! Give us a call at (519)880-1733 or fill out our contact form with any questions and to learn how physiotherapy can enhance your overall quality of life. We’re also always happy to help answer any general physiotherapy and wellness questions, provide you with health tips, and schedule a consultation. Just ask!