How Physiotherapy can assist with headache pain and severity – Adam Shaw Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

How Physiotherapy can assist with headache pain and severity – Adam Shaw Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

I recently conducted an education evening on headaches and would like to share some of the information we discussed at this evening with you.

There are constantly new headaches that are being discovered according to some researchers – recently we have added hot-bath related headache and headache attributed to space travel! There are now over 300 types of headache described in research! BUT, are there really 300 different causes of headache? In the past it was assumed that headache is caused by blood vessel changes within the brain due to their throbbing nature but there is no research to support this. In fact, it has been shown that blood vessels only change after the onset of headache and remain changed until headache has gone. Due to this, it is likely that blood vessel changes are a symptom of headache – not the cause. The same goes for the theory that muscle tension causes headache, research suggests that there is no increased activity in muscles between headache sufferers and those without.

Another more recent theory has more substantial evidence backing it up. It has been suggested that an area of the brainstem called the trigeminocervical nucleus (TCN) is responsible. This area of the brain is responsible for processing information received from the face and neck and if it is sensitised you are more likely to suffer from headache symptoms. Research has shown that those who suffer from migraines and tension type headaches have signs of increased brain stem sensitivity.
It is therefore, unlikely there are 300 different causes of headache. The variety of migraines and headache are not separate conditions with different causes but different expressions of the same condition – that condition being the sensitised brain stem.

The brainstem TCN I mentioned earlier is like the control centre for receiving information from the face and top 3 levels of your neck. If this control centre is affected and now all the messages it receives are exaggerated – kind of like turning the volume up on an amplifier. Then the rest of the brain gets an inaccurate picture of that is going on and subsequently we get overload resulting in headache or other associated symptoms such as dizziness or nausea.

One of the main reasons for this control centre (TCN) to become oversensitive is dysfunction in the upper parts of our neck. Continual information from these levels due to things such as weak neck and shoulder blade muscles, poor posture and overuse can cause onset of symptoms. Often the presence of triggers such as stress, certain foods or bright lights can lead to headache. It is thought that these only trigger headache in the presence of an already pre primed brainstem. If you settle the brainstem irritation you remove the trigger. These triggers alone are not enough to cause the severe pain of headache – it is the sensory processing of these triggers that causes symptoms.

Fortunately, there are medications that can help and you may have tried some of these. They often work by calming down the irritated brainstem, however, often they are required to be taken at the first sign of headache – miss this opportunity and the horse has bolted – the brainstem is already too wound up to settle down and you just need to wait it out.

Physiotherapy can help calm this system down in a more long-term manner by treating one of the initial causes of the brain stem sensitisation in the first place – the neck! An Adelaide based Physiotherapist Dean Watson has been treating headache for over 25 years and has developed a specific technique aimed at ascertaining which area of the neck is causing symptoms. This can be done by reproducing symptoms and subsequently reducing them with treatment to the neck. Hands on physio plus exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment strategy. It must be said this is not a panacea, however, treatment is effective in the vast majority of cases and it can be established quite early (within 4-5 treatments) whether it will help.

You may have been suffering from headaches over a long period of time or have found other treatment ineffective. I would encourage you to speak with a Physiotherapist trained in the Dean Watson Approach about whether they could assist them in their management. Physiologic is currently offering gap free initial consultations for headache sufferers to determine if they may benefit.

If you have any questions on the above information, please feel free to contact me at the clinic.

Adam Shaw
Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

Reflexology- with Jenny Ekstrom


What is Reflexology?

Reflexology involves the manipulation of defined pressure points on the feet, hands, face and ears.
The theory is that these pressure points correspond to various organs of the body and that the application of pressure on these specific points can help to alleviate illness, encourage healing and release tension by working on lines of energy.


There is evidence of foot and hand therapy being practised in China and Egypt, as long ago as 2330 B.C. The re-discovery of some form of systemised foot treatment is accredited to Dr
William Fitzgerald who called it Zone Therapy and drew it to the attention of the medical world between 1915 and 1917. This so-called ‘zone-therapy’ was developed further in the 1930s by a nurse and physiotherapist called Eunice Ingham. Using Fitzgerald’s theory that the body has 10 vertical zones each ending in a different part of the foot, she developed the first map of the reflexes’ to be found on the foot and to which body parts they were connected.

Benefits of Reflexology

Reflexology cannot cure diseases, but can help to alleviate the symptoms of many health problems. As a gentle, non-invasive treatment, it is thought to be very beneficial to promoting a better quality of life.
Reflexology can complement mainstream medicine, particularly by inducing a state of deep relaxation, improving blood and lymphatic circulation and helping the body’s own healing processes.
Regular reflexology sessions can help people cope with general aches and pains as well as alleviating symptoms associated with some chronic problems:
• Respiratory conditions
• Anxiety and depression
• Recovery from stroke
• High blood pressure
• Migraine and headaches
• Support the immune system
• Increase flexibility
• Improve mental agility and memory
• Increase circulation
• Aid digestion issues and constipation
• Improve physical, mental and emotional health.

What to expect after Treatment?

Reflexology gets the circulation going again and increases the nerve supply to all organs.
This creates a balancing effect or "homeostasis" that restores the body’s equilibrium.
Daily anxieties and frustrations are often relieved after a reflexology session and people are
left with a healthy state of body and mind.
Treating both the body and mind through reflexology helps to slow the aging process,
increase energy and encourages recipients to remain active and social.
Please call us for more information on Jenny’s Reflexology services and treatments Phone  07-5578-7155


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Psoas Muscle and Lower Back Pain

The psoas muscle forms part of a large group of muscles called the hip flexors. It is the primary connector between the trunk and lower limbs as it originates at the 12 Thoracic Vertebrae and inserts into the inside of the femur.

Its main action is to bend from your hips and pull your legs towards your chest for example when climbing stairs. These muscles are also used when hiking, running, dancing, walking, sitting and doing sit ups. The iliacus and psoas major form the iliopsoas, which is surrounded by the iliac fascia. Altogether they play a significant role in the movement and stabilization of the pelvis.

Tightness of the psoas can result in spasms or lower back pain by compressing the lumbar discs, resulting in postural problems for example Lumbar Lordosis. Through stress or repetitive activity, sitting down for long periods of time, constant contraction of the psoas muscle limits range of movement in the hip joints and puts pressure on the surrounding hip flexors causing an imbalance in the pelvis.

Through constant contraction of the psoas, the muscle eventually begins to shorten leading to another range of painful conditions including lower back pain, sacroiliac pain, sciatica, disc problems, spondylolysis, scoliosis, hip degeneration, knee pain, menstruation pain, infertility, and digestive problems.

As well as structural problems, tight psoas constricts the organs, puts pressure on the nerves, interferes with the movement of fluids, and impairs diaphragmatic breathing.

If you suffer from any of the above conditions mentioned, come in and see me and I will be more than happy to help you.

Click here to see a demonstration of some stretches you can do to relieve your tight psoas.

By Jenny Ekstrom.

To book an appointment with Jenny, call us on 07 55787155 or click here to book online.