Headache Pain & Treatment

A headache is pain that occurs in the front, top, side(s), or back of your head.

Headaches are our most common form of pain and a major reason cited for days missed at work or school as well as visits to the doctor.  

The International Classification of Headache Disorders, published by the International Headache Society, is used to classify more than 150 types of primary and secondary headache disorders.

Primary headaches occur independently and are not caused by another medical condition. The main classifications of headaches are:

  • Tension-type headache
  • Migraine headache
  • Cluster headache

Headaches that our expert clinicians commonly treat are:

  • Cervicogenic headache (headache coming from the neck)
  • Jaw/TMJ related headache
  • Tension headache
  • Stress-related headache
  • Headaches related to some nerve disorders

Frequency & Intensity

Headaches can range in frequency and severity of pain. Some individuals may experience headaches once or twice a year, while others may experience headaches more than 15 days a month. Pain can range from mild to disabling and may be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea or increased sensitivity to noise or light, depending on the type of headache.

Physical Therapy for Headaches

Our therapists at Desert Palms Physical Therapy are highly trained to provide quality care for head and neck pain. A thorough initial evaluation helps us identify movement dysfunction that can be addressed with patient education, manual techniques, therapeutic exercise, and modalities. Regular reassessment provides reassurance that we are always working to achieve patient goals in a cost-effective manner.

Priority One – Pain Relief

Severe head & neck pain can be disabling. For this reason, our first priority is pain relief. Treating the underlying causes
of identifiable movement dysfunction is the next step toward achieving long-term relief and recovery.

We Start with a Thorough Evaluation

When you see a therapist they will ask you following:

  • Do you have any previous injuries to your neck, head, or jaw
  • When did the pain start, where is it located, what makes it better or worse
  • You’ll be asked to draw a picture of where it hurts
  • The therapist will perform special range of motion, strength, and sensation tests
  • There will be an assessment of your posture during sitting, standing, and performing various activities
  • Areas like the jaw, neck, shoulders, and middle back will be examined as well.

After we’ve asked you questions and performed a thorough exam, we will provide you with a summary of the findings and a personalized plan of care.

Hands-on Approach

Hands-on techniques, in most cases, are an essential part of a successful head and neck pain treatment program. Our
therapists apply the following approaches to the treatment of headaches:

  • Cutting-edge manual skills to for pain relief, relaxation, and recovery of motion.
  • Postural retraining to reestablish positioning of the head neck and trunk.
  • Neuromuscular reeducation to relax tense muscles and reactivate weak muscular support of the head and neck.
  • Stretching techniques to alleviate muscle related pain and tightness.
  • Therapeutic exercise to improve muscle endurance and maintain good posture.
  • Modification of your workstation or home office.

Evidence is Our Guide

Medical research is continuously providing our clinicians at Desert Palms Physical Therapy with “current best-evidence” guidance so we are equipped to provide the state-of-the-art care to our community members.

We look to systematic reviews and random controlled trials to help guide us in the delivery of state-of-the-art care. Coupled with regular attendance to continuing education courses, Desert Palms Physical Therapy has a reputation for providing a high-quality service to those in need of head and neck pain rehabilitation.

Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD), is a term that describes an entire group of disorders involving the temporomandibular joint or joints (TMJ).

The TMJs are the jaw joints. There is one on each side of your head just in front of your ear canals. Like many other joints in the body, they consist of:

  • Muscles that control joint movement,
  • Ligaments that hold the bones together,
  • Cartilage that provides a smooth surface for the bones to move on,
  • A disc that helps with proper movement, of the bones,
  • Elastic tissue that helps hold the disc in place.

One or more of the above tissues can cause symptoms. In fact, studies suggest that one third of the population at any one time experiences TMJ symptoms such as pain with chewing, yawning, or jaw opening. Women seem to have TMJ problems much more often than men and it is estimated that 3-6% of the population might benefit from treatment.

There are a variety of temporomandibular disorders. The muscles (myogenous), joint(s) (arthrogenous), or a combination of the two may cause pain.

Since physical therapists treat muscle and joint problems, they are ideally suited to address a TMD. Moreover, a majority of patients diagnosed with TMD, also have associated neck pain. Both respond well to treatment provided by a physical therapist. No other healthcare practitioner is better suited to address both the TMD and neck pain.

TMD may appear to be a complex condition and it shouldn’t be. This website and your physical therapist can help to insure the following:

  1. You are properly educated,
  2. that your treatment is conservative, cost-effective, and reversible,
    goals are realistic,
  3. your examination is brief and meant to identify your source(s) of pain.

When a physical therapist performs the examination, they will be able to classify you as having one or more of the following:

  1. An inflammatory condition
  2. Limited jaw range of motion
  3. Excessive jaw range of motion
  4. Arthrogenous Disc Displacement
  5. Jaw muscle pain
  6. Neck pain causing related headaches (sometimes mistaken as TMD)

Once the involved structures are identified, the therapist will be able to provide you with the appropriate treatment.

If you would like to learn more about how our TMJ specialists can help you out, please give us a call. (520) 531-0305 or (520) 338-2728