3 Ways Physical Therapy Can Help With Stress-Related Headaches

Aug10th 2023

Did you know that headaches rank third among the most prevalent types of pain? That is correct. Headaches are very frequent and can be extremely debilitating, affecting a person’s quality of life. Dealing with headaches on a daily basis can be incredibly difficult and it can leave a person fatigued.

Fortunately, through physical therapy, long term relief is possible. A trained physical therapist can help you achieve immediate pain relief from stress-related headaches as well as any other pain conditions or ailments that may be contributing to your discomfort. Below we have outlined the different types of headaches and the causes for them, and explain how physical therapy can help.

What types of headaches are there?

As people age, they are more likely to have headaches. Many headaches are self-resolving and do not require medical attention. Severe headaches that reoccur regularly and impair quality of life, on the other hand, typically necessitate medical treatment.

To begin, you must determine the type of headache you’re having. Then, based on your unique pain reduction needs, a complete treatment plan can be developed. Physical therapists are trained to diagnose various forms of headaches and to devise easy pain-relieving treatments for stress-related headaches.

Below are 10 common types of headaches, according to Healthline.

  • Migraine or sinus
  • Stress (tension)
  • Post-traumatic
  • Exertion
  • Rebound
  • Cluster
  • Hormone
  • Caffeine
  • Hypertension

If you’re unsure what kind of headache you’re experiencing, no problem! Your physical therapist will be able to diagnose and treat it accordingly.

What is a stress, or tension headache?

Tension headaches often appear as a result of high-stress levels, poor posture, neck or jaw problems, fatigue, or arthritis. It’s also possible to experience them when feeling anxious or depressed.

Headaches caused by stress usually begin at the back of the head and move to the top of the head and the eyes. When you have this type of headache, you may also feel discomfort in your face along your jaw and cheekbones. Many patients have described the agony as similar to wearing a tight cap, having their hair pushed back tightly, or having their head compressed.

Tension headaches occur when the neck and scalp muscles contract or become tense, and people can start experiencing them at any age, although they’re the most common type of headache in adults and older teens.

How a PT can help with headache pain

A licensed physical therapist can conduct a complete physical exam of your body and condition, as well as ask you the appropriate questions regarding your health history. He or she will be able to figure out what type of headache you’re experiencing and determine the best way to combat it and bring much-needed pain relief.

During your first visit, you can expect most of the following:

  • Questions about the types of pain symptoms experienced
  • Measurements regarding the range of motion of your shoulders, neck and other relevant parts of the body
  • Tests of your muscle strength
  • Questions regarding previous injuries to your back, jaw, and head areas
  • Manual therapy to ascertain the mobility of joints and muscles in your neck
  • Examination of your posture while engaged in different activities

Depending on whether your physical therapist determines that you’re dealing with stress-related headaches, you will begin to work together to create a care plan that will successfully meet your physical health goals. If your physical therapist’s evaluation determines a different type of headache, he or she will likely refer you to a different type of healthcare professional for treatment.

Reducing headache pain with therapeutic techniques

Although the end goal of physical therapy is pain relief, there are some critical things along the way that your physical therapist will help you address so that you can achieve a decrease in pain.

Some of These Include:

  1. Adjusting the way your neck moves. Your physical therapist can use manual therapy to stretch muscles in your neck to relieve pain and increase range of motion.
  2. Improved strength and muscle ability. You’ll learn exercises to help strengthen the muscles that control your upper back and neck. This way your posture will improve, and you’ll be able to sit or stand for long periods without experiencing pain and discomfort.
  3. Posture improvement. How your posture is held during the day significantly impacts your pain levels and the likelihood of experiencing a stress-related headache. Your physical therapist will teach you how to improve your posture for a greater quality of life.

What to expect with treatment plans

Every individual’s treatment plan is different, but many physical therapists use a lot of the same methods. A few examples are soft tissue mobilization, heat or ice compressions, muscular releases, cervical traction, body mobilization, stretching, strengthening, muscle energy techniques, and McKenzie-based diagnosis and therapy of the spine.

With all treatment plans, you can expect to receive information that will supplement your in-office experience. This way you’ll be able to continue strengthening your muscles at home on your own and speed up your recovery time!

Call our clinic today

There’s no reason you need to continue living in constant pain and discomfort with so many treatment options available to you. Contact our office today to experience long-lasting pain relief from stress-related headaches and improve your quality of life!


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