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Geromove is Downtown Milwaukee's go-to physical therapy destination

  • Dr. Nina Geromel, PT, DPT, ATC

What kind of headache is it?

Headaches are a nuisance. They seem to creep up on you right when you need the most amount of focus or maybe they come at full force out of nowhere. No matter how you experience your headaches, the most annoying aspect is that it seems like there are not many ways to relieve the pain and symptoms.

Why are headaches so hard to treat? Well, there are many answers to this question. One way we will help you understand a bit more about your headaches is first by determining what kind of headaches you have. There are numerous types of headaches and when you understand the type of headache you commonly get, you then can determine what interventions are going to best suit you. Read on to learn about the most common types of headaches. As you read, pay attention and see where you fit!


A migraine headache is typically felt on one side of the head but can sometimes occur on both sides. The pain is described as a throbbing or pulsating pain that stays constant and can be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, or sound sensitivity. Sometimes, migraines start with a warning sign, called an aura. An aura can include seeing flashing lights, stars, or even blind spots and typically comes about 30 minutes before the migraine symptoms.

The standard treatment is medication. Over the counter pain relievers are typically used for more mild migraines and prescription medications are used for more severe symptoms. Other treatments can include relaxation exercises, getting an adequate amount of sleep, resting in a dark room, or using an ice pack at the site of pain.

Cluster Headaches

These types of headaches are usually the most painful but last a shorter amount of time than migraine headaches. Pain is typically located around one eye and may radiate to other areas. They are called cluster headaches because they are experienced often in bouts (clusters) where there are frequent headaches and then there are periods of remission with no headaches at all. The clusters last around 6-12 weeks and the remission periods can last from months to years.

The standard treatment also includes medications used to treat migraine headaches. In severe cases, breathing pure oxygen is sometimes recommended by a physician.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are exactly what they sound like. The headache is caused by tension at the muscles surrounding the neck and head. This is usually caused by stress or from maintaining the same position for a long period of time, like sitting at a desk. The pain is typically felt as tightness, pressure, or a dull aching feeling.

This type of headache can be treated with medications, such as muscle relaxers, but also responds well to physical therapy. Physical therapy helps to correct the underlying cause of your headaches, instead of masking the pain, so that the headaches don't return. Your physical therapist will utilize a combination of hands-on therapy to assist in relaxing the muscles and decreasing tension, as well as exercise to correct any muscle imbalances that may predispose your body to over-utilize or under-utilize various muscles leading to tension headaches.

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches originate from the neck and usually are accompanied by neck stiffness or limited movement of the head and neck. The pain can present very similarly to tension headaches with dull aching, pressure, and radiating pain from the back of the head to the front.

The first line of treatment for this type of headache is physical therapy as the cause is typically from poor movement or mobility of the cervical spine. Your physical therapist will perform a thorough assessment to determine if your headaches are in fact caused from a dysfunction in the neck. Treatment includes a combination of hands-on therapy to mobilize the spinal segments and exercises to increase and maintain full range of motion.

Looking for a qualified physical therapist in downtown Milwaukee to treat your headaches? If you are experiencing symptoms that seem to fall in line with tension or cervicogenic headaches, set up an appointment with us and start your journey to becoming pain free.

Download our FREE neck pain ebook here.

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