When It’s All In The Head…

I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss a patient who I’ve been treating over the past month or so, who of course will remain nameless, but is a good example of how osteopathy can help headaches that have otherwise appeared intractable and enduring.

The patient had been experiencing headaches for the past 3 years. The GP had ruled out the ‘nasties’ using blood tests and scans, and in the end had recommended she try acupuncture. Luckily I had treated her before, and she knew that although I am not a chinese acupuncturist I have been trained, like many osteopaths, in musculoskeletal, or medical acupuncture.

I suspect that the reason for the referral to me was more out of being unsure as to what to do next rather than a focussed approach to finding the cause. I say this not to cause offence to the GP, but to emphasise that although headaches caused by neck and upper back tension in the joints and muscles are a common occurrence (so called ‘cervicogenic headaches’) they are largely overlooked as a diagnosis.

In basic terms, the muscles of the neck run all the way over the head to the forehead, and the nerves which exit from the top of the neck run over the head to the temples, forehead and behind the eyes. Thus tension in the joints and the muscles of the neck and upper back can create headaches in these areas.

It’s always worth checking for this type of headache since it responds very well to osteopathic treatment and can save the NHS and the patient both time and money looking for other causes. I’m not saying that other causes should be ignored. Far from it. But while the patient is being tested medically it’s quick and cheap to be assessed and treated by an osteopath in the meantime.

Of course, being an osteopath, I didn’t just treat the patient with musculoskeletal acupuncture: I loosened the muscles and the joints of her upper back and neck, which three weeks later have improved her headaches substantially. I expect her to make a full recovery within the next month.

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