Solutions for Headaches

Tens of millions of people suffer from migraine, cluster or tension headaches. The causes and treatments vary depending on the type of headache you have, the duration and whether it is chronic or acute.

Headaches affect 65% of adult men and over 80% of women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). About half the people who suffer from headaches don’t get treatment.

In the United States, headaches are one of the leading causes of missed work and school. Absenteeism, lost productivity and medical expenses, cost American industry some $50 billion a year.

Headaches can be roughly divided into two groups. By far the largest group, about 80%, are tension headaches, most of which people treat with over-the-counter medications. People with this type of headache usually only seek medical help when the headaches occur daily.

The second group is “vascular headaches,” which include migraines and cluster headaches and can be extremely debilitating. They involve blood vessels and may also involve the nervous system. Migraines affect about 18% of women and 6% of men at some time in their life, most commonly in their most productive years, the 20s through the 50s.

Nearly 30 million people in the United States are affected by migraines, 70% of them female. About 90% of cluster headache sufferers, on the other hand, are male. These usually center around one eye and are called clusters because they occur in a series, several in a day for two or more months, and then they go away. Cluster headaches cause some of the most severe pain men can get.


TMJ and TMDs

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, or jaw joint. TMJs are the small joints in front of each ear that attach the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. They allow you to open and close your mouth, eat, speak, swallow and much more.

TMJ diseases and disorders, or TMDs, cause pain around the jaw and connected muscles and limitations in the ability to move the jaw normally. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 10.8 million Americans suffer from TMDs. While men and women both experience problems, 90% of those seeking treatment are women of childbearing age.


Treating Headaches and TMDs

Many headaches are cervicogenic in nature. This means that the discomfort originates in the neck. Often the muscles at the back of the head where the neck and head meet are tight and sore. The neck itself may not move as freely as you would like it to. There may be discomfort on one or both sides of the neck. If you have suffered a whiplash injury, you may even have pain or discomfort on the front of your neck or difficulty swallowing. There may be pain in the jaw or face. All of these can contribute to headaches. Even your posture and work environment can contribute to headaches.


One example involves forward and elevated shoulders. This can cause tightness of your trapezius muscle on top of your shoulders as well as the scalene muscles that run along the side of your neck. This often leads to a restriction in mobility of the first rib & lower part of your neck. This pattern of tension often causes headaches on the side of the head above and around the ear. An effective treatment approach may include mobilization of the first rib, myofascial release directed at the scalenes and upper trapezius. There are also several exercises you can do to keep the neck and muscles moving freely and minimize further tensioning. A comprehensive assessment of all these areas and a treatment plan to address them is paramount to your recovery.


If you suffer from headaches or jaw pain, you need to see a qualified manual physical therapist. At Manual Therapy Associates, Dr. Sandra Do has effectively treated all types of these conditions successfully for many years.

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