Headaches are a common complaint that affect approximately two thirds of the population.  At Oxford Circus Physio we treat people with headaches on a daily basis.  We pride ourselves on arming our patients with the tools to effectively treat and prevent their recurrence. The two most common types of headaches we treat are tension headaches and cervical headaches.

What is a headache? 

Tension headaches

This is the most common headache type often arising due to poor posture, stress and tight and/or weak muscles. Trigger points (sometimes referred to as ‘knots’) in the muscles around the neck and upper back can refer pain into the head and behind the eyes. The pain may present as a tight band around the head or a mild-moderate dull ache usually on both sides of the head.

Cervical headaches

These headaches are a result of referred pain from the structures in the upper neck such as the upper cervical (neck) joints, compressed nerves, ligaments or tight and/or weak muscles. If excessive load is placed on these structures (eg: whiplash, poor posture, computer work) these structures may become irritated and can refer pain into the back of the head, temples, eyes and forehead causing a headache. It may present as a stabbing pain or constant ache usually on one side of the head, and is often accompanied with pain or stiffness in the neck.

You may be predisposed to developing a tension or cervical headache for the following reasons:

  • Poor posture (eg rounded shoulders, protruding chin)
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Muscle tightness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Poor computer or desk set up
  • Spinal degeneration
  • Fatigue
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Migraines (Vascular headache)

The source of a migraine is still relatively unknown though they can be brought on by triggers such as stress, certain foods or fatigue. It is recommended you see your GP if you develop a migraine which is often a severe and throbbing pain to the front or to one side of the head. Other associated symptoms may include nausea and visual and sensory disturbances. Physiotherapy in conjunction with certain medications can be helpful for migraine sufferers.

How can Physiotherapy help? 

We will be able to diagnose your headache type, identify the causes and apply appropriate manual therapy techniques combined with exercises to ease your headache and prevent recurrence. Correctly identifying the cause will help with our treatment plan. We may include the following in our sessions:

  • Postural retraining (stretches and strengthening)
  • Mobilisation of the upper cervical (neck) joints
  • Gentle manipulation of the upper cervical joints
  • Massage and trigger point release
  • Acupuncture or trigger point needling
  • Neural stretching
  • Stress management
  • Taping
  • Work station assessment
  • Advice regarding Physical activity


Ensure you speak to your GP if you have any abnormal symptoms such as a sudden onset of a severe headache, chronic (long lasting) headaches, headaches that wake you or a headache combined with a fever, weakness, memory loss or weight loss. Contact the team at Oxford Circus Physiotherapy if you need any advice regarding management for your headache.

Click here for exercises to help relieve and/or prevent headache:

  • Upper trap stretch
  • Levator scap stretch
  • Cervical retraction
  • Scap retractions