Top Causes Of Headache & How Physiotherapy Can Help

Top Causes Of Headache & How Physiotherapy Can Help

Reviewed By

Shikha Lall (BPT, MPT, RYT)


Every year, more than 213 million Indians complain of headaches. This equates to around one in every six persons or 15.4 per cent of the total population in India suffering from headaches.

Headaches have become normal these days. Almost all of us suffer from headaches at least once in our lifetime. Headaches can vary from being acute to chronic. Headaches can last just a few minutes or even a few days, and they usually go away without you having to take medicine. However, we never know if the headache is a result of an underlying medical illness. Hence, it is advisable to seek professional help. 

Headaches can happen for a variety of reasons. For some, it might be due to an unhealthy lifestyle or incorrect posture, while for others, it could be due to an internal problem.

There are over 150 different types of headaches. They are classified into two types: primary and secondary headaches.


1. Primary Headache

Excessive activity or issues with pain-sensitive regions in your head can cause a primary headache. A primary headache is not a sign of a more serious condition. They do not occur because of any underlying medical condition.

Types of primary headaches:

a. Tension headaches

Tension headaches are minor headaches characterized by a dull, stinging sensation on the sides and back of the head. It is among the most common forms of headaches. However, its root causes are poorly understood.

There are two kinds of headaches, named tension and episodic tension-type and chronic tension-type.

b. Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are one of the most terrible forms of headache. They occur in cyclical patterns of cluster periods. Waking up in the middle of the night with a terrible headache is no fun. But it’s not uncommon when you have cluster headaches, those intense, sudden bursts of pain that occur around the eyes. 

The good news is that cluster headaches are rare and do not pose a threat to one's life. Medication can also help reduce the severity of the headache and relieve pain.

c. New Daily Persistent Headaches (NDPH)

New Daily Persistent Headaches (NDPH) can be equally severe and debilitating. It appears out of nowhere and can linger for up to three months. Within 24 hours after development, the headache becomes intense.

Further headaches occur on a daily basis for a long stretch of time. Half of all NDPH cases begin after surgery or acute illness, although there is usually no relevant cause of it.

NDPH can cause dull and throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head. Its symptoms are similar to those of cluster headache and migraine.

d. Migraine 

A migraine headache is characterized by severe tingling, pain, or a pulsating sensation on one side of the brain. It is usually followed by nausea, vomiting, and excessive light and sound sensitivity. Migraine episodes can persist for hours or days, and the pain can be severe enough to affect everyday tasks.

Migraines can last up to 72 hours. Migraine attacks can happen rarely or a couple of times in a month. It varies from person to person. 

Migraines can affect both children and adults. 

2. Secondary Headaches 

Secondary headaches are the ones that are caused due to an underlying medical problem. Secondary headaches can come as a result of a neck injury or sinus problems.

Cervicogenic headaches are when the pain from your neck radiates up to your head. Often caused by stress and tension in your neck, it may start at the base of your skull, then radiate to the forehead and eyes. The discomfort is usually a mild aching, although the intensity of the pain can sometimes worsen. 

Cervicogenic headaches are usually only on one side of your head and tend to occur after doing something that strains your neck muscles. CGH muscles get sore and painful. They can get sore from doing the wrong thing, like getting in a car accident, coughing too hard or sneezing too hard.

Secondary headaches can be caused by serious medical issues. There could be different reasons for secondary headaches. It probably comes from a problem or infection with your brain, high blood pressure, or a problem with the blood vessels in your head.

There are various kinds of secondary headaches. Some of them are as follows:

  • Sinus headaches

  • Hormone headaches

  • Cervicogenic headaches

  • Rebound headaches

  • Exertional headaches

  • Hypertension headaches

A physiotherapist can help you recover from headaches without medication. Physiotherapy is a safe, reliable and effective method of recovery that has been shown to reduce pain and improve physical function in people with headaches.

Headaches can be caused by many things, including serious diseases. The first step in diagnosing headaches is to rule out any serious illnesses. The physiotherapist can help you with your challenge. They will suggest the right treatment that can relieve your pain and help you get rid of headaches.


Primary Headache

  • Dull or throbbing sensation on the back of the head

  • Extreme pain on the sides of the head

  • Sudden emerging pain that lasts for a few months

Secondary Headache

  • Extreme pain in the head due to changing posture

  • Pain that arises because of chewing

  • Headache worsening overtime


The doctor will diagnose the headache and will prescribe medicines. Migraine headaches can impact your life. We suggest you see a doctor sooner rather than later just so you don’t experience this debilitating pain for long. SELF MEDICATION IS NOT ADVISED AS IT COULD BE FATAL. 

Taking headache medicines along with some special exercises is one of the best ways to tackle headaches in the long run. Exercising your neck is one of the most effective ways to prevent and treat migraines. It can help you reduce the number of headaches you have, as well as their severity. Physiotherapy can help stop headaches by using stretches, exercises and moves to improve range of motion.

Following are the types of exercises that can help in relieving headaches:-

1. Strengthening Exercises

a. Levator Scapular Stretch

b. Doorway Stretch

c. Upper Trapezius Stretch

d. Neck Rotation

2. Stretching Exercises

a. Wall Push Up

b. Prone Rows

c. Shoulder Scapular Squeeze

d. Theraband Rows

3. Range of Motion Exercises

a. Neck Retraction

b. Bed Hangs

c. Ear-to-Shoulder Stretch

d. Scalene Stretch

Most Frequently Asked Questions:-

1. Can physiotherapy help cervicogenic headaches?

Physiotherapy might be a helpful treatment for cervicogenic headaches. There are people who get headaches. Some of those headaches have to do with the disks in their necks. The treatment exercises are centred on muscles around the neck.

Too much time on your phone can also cause neck pain and headaches. Your doctor may recommend some exercises to stretch the muscle under your ear. This can help reduce headaches. Neck exercises are great for stretching and strengthening your neck and gaining control over it.

2. Can physiotherapy help migraines?

Stretching and exercises on body movements and posture are all a part of physiotherapy.  Physiotherapists can help patients with the pain and stiffness in their necks and backs. posture. As a result, the muscles are less tight or stiff, thereby helping in reducing migraine symptoms. 

Physiotherapy can help to reduce your pain if you suffer from migraine headaches. Physiotherapy helps when you have a headache. It eases away the pain, making you feel more comfortable and allowing you to focus on your day.

3. Can neck exercises help headaches?

Yes, neck exercises can help you find relief from headaches. You can do chin tucks, cat-cow stretches, upper trapezius stretching, scapular retraction and rolling your head side to side. However, it is necessary for the physio to be cautious while writing stretches to people who have severe headaches.


The dull and throbbing sensation can hinder your life and impact your daily activities. Headaches can also be a symptom of a serious medical problem. This can be life-threatening if not treated. It is imperative for you to get it diagnosed to understand the root cause of it. 

Know that headaches aren’t normal and should be treated as one. If you have headaches, watch out for frequent headaches, more intensity, new headaches, headaches with a medical condition, worsening nerve symptoms, headaches with sickness, and headaches after an injury. If you have a bad headache that is getting worse, or if you have a headache and it’s been going on for three days straight, you should see a doctor right away.

Physiotherapy alongside the ongoing prescribed medication can help relieve pain to a great extent. Exercise may lessen the pain of a headache or even reduce its frequency. It is a great way to treat a headache. It can help you feel better and reduce pain at the same time.

You can easily avail yourself of physiotherapy at home through online physiotherapy portals like YourPhysio | India's #1 Trusted Online Physiotherapy Service

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Our team will work with you to create a personalized plan that fits your unique condition.

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