Tension headaches are, without a doubt, horrifically painful. So why doesn’t your doctor seem worried when they diagnose it? It can be somewhat frustrating as a patient when you feel someone is seemingly brushing off the severity of your issues. Particularly if they are not seeming to give you a fix and “just sending you for physical therapy”. But I’ve got some great news for you!
The reason tension headaches are treated the way they are is that there is a very musculoskeletal root to the problem! As the name implied, it is tension within the soft tissue, the muscles, and tendons surrounding your head, that seems to be causing the pain. Because those muscles surround the entirety of your skull, tension on them seems to affect your entire head. It can even make your scalp tender! Similar to a knot in your neck, this muscular root to the problem does not make it hurt any less. But it certainly makes us less afraid of things like stroke or head injury! It means that we need to address what is making those muscles so tense in the first place! And that’s why you were referred out to therapy!
PT is uniquely positioned for this. Our interventions affect both mental and physical stress that could be causing the tissue tension that is causing your pain. Tension is rarely a one cause/one fix issue, and a holistic approach that affects more than just instantaneous relaxation but instead works on tissue deficits and causes of tension is the goal long term solution with therapy! Think of this as treating the problem and not just the symptom! I always tell people: your doctor rarely sent you to me because they don’t care. They did it because they feel there is more to your pain than just pain, which is almost always true! And if we can fix the cause, we can have much better long term outcomes for all patients, which is always the goal!