Headaches & migraines are incredibly common and usually result in mild to severe disability, pain and lifestyle disruption. Headaches can be experienced as a dull or sharp ache or pain in the head region with or without accompanying symptoms such as nausea, disturbed vision, sensitivity to noise and bright lights and muscular and joint tightness in the neck and shoulder region.
What is the cause?
80% of all headache and migraine have the neck as a source of pain.
With specialised training (via the Watson technique) your physiotherapist can identify a common fault in the upper 3 cervical (neck) joints in your neck. This fault can be the cause of your headache or migraine.
Can Physiotherapy help Headaches?
Most definitely. With a specialised assessment technique we can ascertain if there is a pressure imbalance in your upper 3 cervical joints. This problem causes spasm of a muscle which stresses your joints. This spasm causes an increase in the firing of the cervical nerves into the brainstem (the connection between the brain & the rest of the body).
The same area in the brainstem (the trigeminal nucleus) also receives and relays messages to the face and head. Therefore over stimulation of the brainstem also excites the nerves to the face and head, causing your headache pain along with the symptoms of nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound (which are also controlled by the brainstem).
Your Physiotherapist will take a detailed subjective assessment of your condition. They will then do a physical assessment to see if you have the pressure imbalance in your upper 3 cervical joints. This can then be corrected with some light manual pressure. Then, to ensure the neck is the cause of your symptoms, your therapist will apply gentle selective pressure to your joints which temporarily reproduces your symptoms. The pressure is sustained for around 20 seconds, which will then alleviate your symptoms.
If it is decided that physiotherapy treatment is appropriate for you, you will be prescribed a specific treatment plan which involves manual therapy, posture advice and home exercises. Usually, to achieve the best clinical outcomes possible, you need to attend for 2 sessions per week, for 2 weeks. If your symptoms aren't changing, your neck can be excluded as a source of your headache pain. If your symptoms are changing, then we can implement a methodical exercise program to keep you symptom free.
To make a booking to see a local Melbourne Headache and Migraine physiotherapist, for treatment of your headache, please call your local Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy clinic or book online. Whilst all of our therapists have general headache physiotherapy training, for specific headache physiotherapy, we recommend Claire Mc Guinness at our North Melbourne and Essendon clinics, who has completed extra training in expert headache management.