Causes, treatment and prevention of headaches


Written by Dr. David Howard – B.Sc. (Clinical Sci.), M.H.Sc. (Osteopathy), B.App.Sc (Human Movement) from Pascoe Vale Osteopathy located in Pascoe Vale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Headaches are one of the most common issues seen at Pascoe Vale Osteopathy. Headaches can range from a dull ache to debilitating migraines requiring hospitalisation.

Headaches affect 66% of men and 80% of women. 5% of adults actually experience a headache every day. Headaches may not be a serious disease but they greatly affect our everyday life, work and play.

What can cause headaches?

There are many different types and causes of headaches:
Eye strain
Hormonal/menstrual related
Alcohol induced
Post traumatic (i.e. after a  bump to the head)
Sinus headache
Jaw/Temporomandiubular joints (TMJ)
Due to serious disease such as a brain tumour (rare)

But the most common is the ‘cervicogenic’ headache (meaning from the neck) or ‘tension’ headaches.

Tension headache

This is due to a build up of muscle tension at the base of the skull otherwise known as the suboccipital area. Patients experience pain both at the base of the skull and as a headache in the forehead, eyes and temple areas. The reason why this occurs is due to tight muscles, inflammation and joint restrictions in the area irritating nerves and blood vessels resulting in local and referred (travelling) pain of a headache.


Patients can experience both headaches and migraines as there is a definite difference between the two. A migraine happens due to inflammation of the nerves and blood vessels in the head causing symptoms such as nausea, blurry or distorted vision, numbness and a severe headache. The triggering mechanism is still not widely understood by the field of medicine/science. Migraines may be triggered by such things as tiredness, red wine, chocolate, preservatives or even something minor like consuming tomato-based foods. For some patients migraines can be a random event with no discernable trigger.

So what can you do about it??

Try and find out the reason why your headaches are happening in the first place:
Do you need your eyes checked for glasses or a change in your script?
Are you drinking enough water (minimum 2 litres a day)?
Were you drinking alcohol the night before?
Are your sinuses infected?
Are you clenching or grinding your teeth? Waking up with a headache in the morning
What is your pillow and/or mattress like? Sleeping on your stomach with head twisted to one side?

Osteopathic treatment for headaches and migraines

The most common cause will be the neck and this is where an osteopath can assist you.

Treatment for headaches involves improving joint mobility and reducing muscle tension resulting in improved blood supply and drainage from the head and reduced nerve irritation.  The second part of the treatment is providing you with stretches and strengthening exercises to assist in reducing the headaches occurring again. Another important factor is improving ergonomics such as the position you sleep, sit and work – Dr. David Howard will be able to advise you on the correct things to do.

Most people that have headaches experience them chronically (constantly, or intermittently for more than 3 months) so treatment is most commonly not just a one off, it involves improving the symptoms quickly and then moving to more maintenance treatment to keep them gone/diminished/controlled. The frequency of maintenance treatment varies for each individual patient. Everybody is different, some people require treatment once a month and others every 3 months.


Disclaimer: Information provided in this post is of a general nature and should not be used solely in place of individual advice from either myself or another medical professional. Pascoe Vale Osteopathy and Dr. David Howard will not take responsibility for any injury resulting from following information in this post.

Pascoe Vale Osteopathy provides osteopathic services to patients from a wide number of suburbs such as Pascoe Vale, Essendon, Essendon North, Moonee Ponds, Strathmore, Niddrie, Keilor, Coburg, Brunswick, Oak Park, Glenroy, Airport West, Travancore, Melbourne, Australia.