Headaches & Migraine Management

Physiotherapy can assist in the management of headache and migraine by addressing musculoskeletal dysfunction in your neck, upper back and shoulders.

People experience headache for a multitude of reasons, in fact there are over 300 types of headaches described, however research by Headache and Migraine Consultant Physiotherapist Dean Watson into this area has demonstrated that a majority of headaches have the same underlying pathophysiology. This specific pathophysiology implicates the upper three spinal nerve roots in the neck and their ability to refer pain to the head. Manual therapy can effectively reduce the irritation of the upper cervical vertebrate and surrounding structures.

"Manual therapists [physiotherapists] are in a position to confirm or rule out the upper cervical spine as a potential source of headache"

Dean Watson, Consultant Headache and Migraine Physiotherapist

WHAT DOES PHYSIOTHERAPY TREATMENT ENTAIL?

Initially the physiotherapist will make an assessment of whether you are a candidate for this specific treatment technique. Treatment then involves specific movement and pressure to the upper cervical joints. Specific exercises will also be provided with the aim of prophylactically treating the headache outside of physiotherapy. Our headache management does not involve manipulation or 'cracking' of the neck.

HOW MANY SESSIONS WILL I REQUIRE?

Temporary reproduction of headache is one of the key diagnostic features of neck involvement. However it is important to remember that this alone is not enough to confirm that the neck is the cause of a headache or migraine. There needs to be a corresponding reduction in headache symptoms with correction of the upper spinal segment dysfunction.

Treatment frequency is variable and largely based on the individual. However, if your headache is amenable to physiotherapy it is anticipated that a lessening of the headache will occur in the first session. Over several treatments the frequency and severity of the head is expected to reduce, as well as reliance on analgesics. It is anticipated that the headache will become more manageable and possibly resolve over time.

WHAT CAN I DO TO MANAGE MY HEADACHES/MIGRAINES?

  • Exercise—has an affect on serotonin levels that positively influence on information received by the brain's processing centres. 'Noxious' messages, such as headaches can be less severe with higher serotonin levels.
  • A diet rich in tryptophans—this is an amino acid which is the building blocks for serotonin. Foods high in tryptophan include turkey, soy, certain seafoods and nuts.
  • Specific neck exercises—prescribed by your physiotherapist to prophylactically treat your headaches and/or migraines.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: 

Atlas physiotherapists Roz Penfold and Alana Brass have completed the specific training via the Watson Headache Institute to treat headaches/migraines. Please ask reception for more information. Alternatively you may wish to visit: 

www.WatsonHeadacheInstitute.com