Do you suffer from chronic headaches?
Does this look familiar?
If you find you're spending more and more time in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone, you're not alone. Using this technology for an hour or so a day may not cause a problem, but if your job requires you to spend 40 hours a week in front of a computer and you also are using your personal technology a good bit, it could lead to negative consequences.
Cervicogenic headache - or neck headache - is a type of headache in which the upper three cervical joints, muscles, and ligaments cause pain that can refer to the head. The typical symptoms include pain at the base of the skull that radiates towards the temple and behind the eye. Occasionally, dizziness, light headedness, or ringing of the ears may also occur. Another telltale sign? The pain starts off mild in the mornings and increases as the day goes on.
These headaches are often caused by muscle imbalances and soft tissue or joint restrictions that can be a result of sustaining improper posture throughout the day. If you stop and evaluate your posture while on the computer or using your tablet, you may find it is not ideal.
Neck headaches also can be caused by stress, anxiety, or previous trauma including whiplash accidents.
It is important to have an individualized approach to each case and try to pinpoint the cause for the best treatment. In most cases, conservative treatments like physical therapy tend to work best for those experiencing these types of headaches.
Physical therapy treatments may include joint and soft tissue mobilizations/manipulations, addressing muscle imbalances, working on strength and endurance of the deep neck stabilizers and education regarding posture. Other potential medical management includes pharmacological treatment which may involve analgesics, antiepileptic or antidepressant drugs, or epidural steroid or nerve block injections. In extreme cases surgery may be required.
The first step to preventing these headaches is to evaluate your posture and ergonomics at both work and home. That may include:
setting your computer at an appropriate height and horizontal distance from your eyes, having a chair that allows you to sit with good posture, and sleeping with a proper pillow and mattress that keeps your body in neutral alignment.
A physical therapist also can develop a plan to help you strengthen and develop the muscles required to have good posture. Finally it is important to have good stress management; uncontrolled anxiety and depression can lead to ongoing chronic symptoms.
To learn more about how physical therapy can help you live pain free, contact St. Francis Physical Therapy or email Alexander_Volfson@bshsi.org.
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