A Dictionary for Headaches and Dizziness
Headaches are like art. You know it when you see it—or in this case, you know it when you feel it. Most of us are familiar with headache symptoms; throbbing, pulsating pressure, and sometimes sharp pain. In worse cases, you can feel vertigo and dizziness. While we have all experienced headaches, we may not all experience them from the same causes. When we try and self-diagnose online, we begin to see a load of medical jargon. Below are some of the definitions associated with headaches and dizziness, we recommend getting a diagnosis from a physical therapist if any of the following terms seem like they apply to you.
The Cervicogenic Headache
An oversimplified definition of a cervicogenic headache is pain that you feel in your head caused by issues in your neck/spine. When you feel pain in one area caused by issues in another area it is called referred pain. This is the case with cervicogenic headaches. Certain occupations like hairstylists, carpenters, and truck drivers are more prone to developing cervicogenic headaches due to how they hold their head at work. Key indicators for cervicogenic headaches include pain resulting from neck movement. These are different from tension headaches, which we will get into next.
Tension-type headaches are a duller pain that may feel like a vice grip slowing squeezing your skull. We may also refer to them as stress headaches. Tension-type headaches fall into two categories based on how long you experience them. If you experience tension-type headaches less than 15 days, they are called episodic tension headaches. If you experience them for more than 15 days, they are considered chronic tension headaches. The causes can be as simple as stress or it may be related to muscular or circulatory issues.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
BPPV is caused by small crystals of calcium carbonate or “ear rocks” that collect in the inner ear. Although often associated with age, BPPV can also be caused by an injury. People suffering from BPPV can experience dizziness, a spinning sensation (vertigo), lightheadedness, unsteadiness, loss of balance, and nausea. At Renew Physical Therapy in Portland, we are trained in the Epley maneuver to treat BPPV. This maneuver is a series of head movements that shift particles in the ears.
Vestibular Dysfunction or Neuritis
The symptoms of vestibular dysfunction or neuritis are vertigo and dizziness. Like BPPV, it is caused by issues of the inner ear. More specifically, it is caused by inflammation of the inner ear or the nerves that connect the inner ear to the brain. Treatment for vestibular dysfunction or neuritis begins with a thorough evaluation.
Each Headache Symptom Should Be Evaluated and Diagnosed by a Physical Therapist
As you now know, not all headaches are created equal. Each headache can have distinct symptoms and treatments. Differential diagnosis is key in eliminating headaches and dizziness/vertigo. The initial evaluation will include special tests to determine if the cause of symptoms is from the neck, vestibular/inner ear, circulatory, or other systems. In addition to patient education and counseling in behavioral modification and prevention strategies, we will utilize our evaluation skills to determine the presence of upper neck restriction or positional faults and correct these mechanical headache/dizziness triggers with specialized manual therapy techniques.
How Do I Pick a Physical Therapist in the Portland Area?
As Renew Physical Therapy continues to grow, we have retained our personal approach to our patients. We believe it is because we are unique. Our multiple 5-Star PT reviews reinforce the idea that our approach is creating great results. We adhere to a strict “no-pain” rule throughout treatment to ensure steady progress toward a full recovery. No two patients are the same, therefore, each patient is evaluated and treated individually with no cookie-cutter or assembly-line approach.
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