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GENERAL INFORMATION, SIGNS & SYMPTOMS, OSTEOPATHIC AND SELF MANAGEMENT OF
  HEADACHES

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Headache can be a debilitating symptom which affects most people at some stage of their lives. There are more than 200 types of headaches ranging from simple strains to complex molecular imbalances and unknown phenomenon.
 
An osteopathic approach to headache is to take a systematic past medical history and physical examination with an aim to identify any signs or symptoms that may require specialist referral and to also identify key areas of treatment and management.
 
Below is some information on headaches that are commonly seen by osteopaths:
 

Tension Headache
The most common form of headache. Commonly described as a "vice-like" feeling of tension in the head.
Causes: stress, neck pain, eye strain, sleep disturbance, jaw dysfunction (TMJ Syndrome)
Signs & Symptoms: Pain can be both or 1 side of the head and is commonly described as "vice-like". Headache can be episodic or chronic and can last from 30 minutes to all day. Sufferers often feel muscle tenderness in the head and neck.
Osteopathic Management: Your osteopath will take a full past medical history and examination to rule out any other causes of headache which may require referral to a specialist. Treatment aims to relieve tissue tension through the head, neck and related structures. Your osteopath will talk through factors that may be contributing to the occurrence of your headache and work out a management plan.
Self Management: Heat pack, stretching, rest, stress management, exercise, sleep management. Optical check-up.
 
 
Cervicogenic Headache
A Headache which is usually referred from one or more structures of the neck (muscle, nerve, joint, blood vessels, or bone).
Causes: Poor Posture and extended periods of static posture, Stress, Repetitive Strain
Signs & Symptoms: The headache is commonly felt on on one side of the head (bit can be both), Head pain of varying duration (moderate to severe), Fluctuating or continuous pain, altered posture, restricted neck/torso/arm movement. Neck movements may change the feel of the headache. Some people may also experience (to a lesser degree) nausea, dizziness, blurred vision.
Osteopathic Treatment: an osteopath will perform a full history and  examination first to screen for any abnormal causes of your headache.  If the cause of your headache is a structural issue (for example stiff neck & back joints or muscle strain) then the osteopath will select appropriate techniques to treat the underlying cause and educate you on self management tools.
Self Management: Heat Pack, Ergonomics, Stretching, Stress Management, and Exercise
Migraine
An episodic primary headache disorder which affects approximately 15% of the population.
Causes: Many theories on the cause (none completely conclusive). Hereditary (may family members have it).
Potential Triggers: Including drinking red wine, chocolate, cheese, nuts, seafood, skipping meals, weather changes, poor sleep, stress, hormonal fluctuations, certain prescription and non prescription drugs, head trauma.
Symptoms: Some patients (approx. 25%) experience warning symptoms prior to Migraine onset (e.g. mood changes, loss of appetite, nausea). Migraine typically lasts 24hrs but can be anywhere between 4-72hrs. Pain is usually 1 sided (can be both), throbbing, worse with physical activity. Patients can also experience nausea, light, sound, and smell sensitivity, lingering fatigue, vomiting. Approximately 25% of people will experience an aura (flashes of light). A tension headache may co-exist. Some people develop chronic migraines which can occur for 15+ days a month.
Osteopathic Management: Whilst it is difficult to decipher scientific evidence, some patients who experience migraines respond well to osteopathic treatment. Your osteopath will perform a full medical history and examination to screen for any symptoms that may require referral to a specialist. Your osteopath will treat associated symptoms (e.g. muscle tension and neck stiffness) and discuss headache management strategies.
Self Management: A headache diary (note the number and timing of attacks and list potential triggers), Headache Trigger Management, Stress Management and Behavioral Management.
 
Cluster Headache
Short periods of severe, one sided  head pain, which occurs in clusters (e.g. several times per day) which can last up to three months.
Cause: Unknown. It is theorised that alcohol intake may trigger an attack in some people.
Signs & Symptoms: attacks commonly occur at the same time of each day, often wake people from sleep, is on one side of the head, can be excruciating , and can last up to 30mins to an hour. People may also experience a runny nose, flushing, drooping of the eye.
Osteopathic Management: Whilst it is difficult to decipher scientific evidence, some patients who experience cluster headaches may respond well to osteopathic treatment. Your osteopath will perform a full medical history and examination to screen for any symptoms requiring immediate referral to a specialist. Your osteopath can also treat associated symptoms (e.g. muscle tension and neck stiffness).
Self Management: Reduce Triggers (e.g. alcohol intake)
Useful Links on Headache
International Headache Society: http://www.ihs-headache.org/