A review 1, found in Current Pain and Headache Reports was conducted to see if there was indeed a valid link between spinal posture acting as a trigger for an episodic headache. While the review concluded more research is required, it did present some interesting results.
The Global Issue of Headaches
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), headaches are one of the ten most disabling conditions for human beings. Numerous factors have been studied to contribute to or give rise to the development of a headache. Secondary headaches have been observed to be due to an underlying etiology, for example, trauma, infections, and dysfunctional or abnormal cervical structures. Take note, primary as well as certain secondary headaches arise from complex multi-dimensional interactions between lifestyle, psychosocial, cognitive, biological, and environmental factors. Due to several triggers, identifying underlying mechanisms of headaches continues to be challenging.
Headaches and Spinal Positions
The current world encourages people to remain seated. According to studies, when daily computer use exceeds 3 hours, there’s a higher prevalence of musculoskeletal complaints. Such complaints include experiencing pain in the neck, head, or upper extremity. These complaints are suspected to be linked to slumped sitting postures.
A slumped sitting position involves an increased posterior pelvic rotation, forward head posture, and thoracic flexion. Such postures (if sustained) tend to increase the biomechanical momentum and torque, decrease proprioception, cause creep of spinal tissue, and limit postural variability.
Why do such a Review?
While an extensive framework for headache classification is provided by The International Classification of Headache Disorder, outcomes following physiotherapy do vary. Such variability might be explained due to the absence of protocol studies for identifying the role of spinal posture in headaches. That’s why conducting multi-dimensional profiling of patients (suffering from a headache) based on the interactions present between spinal posture, lifestyle, and psychosocial factors may be essential.
The current review had the objective to find support about whether spinal posture could trigger an episodic headache. The review considered a multi-dimensional view on tension-type and cervicogenic headache (this included modern pain neuroscience).
What Did It Find?
The current review described several pathways to support how spinal postures acted as a trigger for an episodic headache. Psychosocial factors could also act as a catalyst for the development of a headache through a maladaptive spinal posture.
However, further research is still required to determine the exact level of contribution of spinal postural dysfunctions and their ability to trigger a headache.