There are several types of headaches. Common types are tension, cluster and migraine headaches.

  • Tension headaches are the most common. These headaches are described as constant, aching and/or pressure around the forehead, temples, or back of the head and neck. These headaches usually occur on both sides of the head. A tension headache can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days.
  • Cluster headaches occur less often, only about 1% of the time. Cluster headaches are more common in males. They are groups or clusters of headaches that usually have a pattern. The headaches appear suddenly and cause severe, debilitating pain on one side of the head, along with a watery eye and nasal congestion on the same side of the head.
  • Migraine headaches are severe recurring headaches, usually affecting only one side of the head but can be felt across your forehead. Some migraines are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms or signs (auras), such as flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in your arm or leg.

Symptoms of headaches vary with the person and type of headache.

The physical therapy evaluation may include:

  • A review of diagnostic tests including X-rays, MRI, CT scan or blood work done by your doctor. You will need to bring in a copy of the results. You do not need to bring in the X-rays.
  • A review of the child’s medical history including past medical diagnoses, family history of similar problems, and review of recent injuries or onset of pain.
  • A discussion of how the headache is affecting your child’s sleep, participation in school and other activities.

Dress your child in clothing they can easily move in. The physical therapist will look at your child’s neck, back and legs, motion, strength, coordination, balance, endurance, reflexes, sensation and feel the muscles and bones. The therapist will watch how your child sits, stands and walks.

The therapist will discuss the results and talk with you about the need for physical therapy treatment. You will discuss how often and for how long your child will need treatment. Sometimes it is necessary to go back to the doctor for more tests.

Common treatments

There are many physical therapy treatments for headaches. Your child will learn exercises and activities to help him feel better and do the things they like to do. It is important to do all the exercises you are asked to do at home in order to make progress.

Types of treatment are; stretching, strengthening, and improving balance, coordination, endurance, posture. Your child will learn how to lift, carry a backpack and take care of their back. They will learn how to sleep better. The therapist may use heat, ice, TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation), tape, massage, muscle release craniosacral therapy, breathing and relaxation techniques to help your child.

You will want to tell your therapist if the headaches are not improving or if they are getting worse.

Definitive diagnosis resources

An evaluation by a Pediatrician or family medicine doctor is the first step to care. The doctor may arrange for tests if needed such as: X-rays, CT Scan, MRI or blood work. The doctor may refer your child to a specialist. Common specialists are Rehab Physiatrist, Neurologist, Neuropsychologist and Behavioral Psychologist.
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