Migraine: Can physical therapy help it?

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Migraine is a recurrent type of headache. It varies from moderate to intense pain and might be felt as a pulse or vibration. The pain usually has particular distribution (one side of the head) and might come together with another symptoms, such as weakness, nausea or sensitivity to light and sound.

Scientific investigation leads to think that there is a genetic cause behind the migraines but also there are different factors that can  trigger it:

– Stress or anxiety

– Hormonal changes

– Strong smells, noises or lights

– Certain drugs

– Abstinence of certain foods: caffeine, sugar…

– Lack of sleep (but oversleep too)

– Intolerances: food, smoke, alcohol…

– Strenuous exercise

– Other factors

Can physical therapy help with migraine?

In my opinion physical therapy CAN NOT help with migraines. We can help relieving some of the symptoms by applying cold and pressure in the head, but when it comes to improve the migraine (understood as genetic problem as explained before) it is out of our scope.

Physical therapy and tension headaches

Physical therapy can help with another kind of headaches known as “tension headaches”. This tension headaches have different distribution than migraines: they hurt all over the head but mostly at the forehead, at the back of the head and at the neck. The pain doesn’t get worse with activity and usually the patient will feel tender neck, shoulders or jaw.

Tension headaches are usually caused by active trigger points in different muscles. This trigger points will generate a referred pain in the head and physical therapy can help releasing them.

Different techniques that physical therapy uses to release the trigger points might be:

– Deep tissue massage

– Stretching

– Pressure-therapy

– Dry – needling

– PNF

– Myofascial release

– Others

As part of the therapy, the therapist would have to do a proper assessment and figure out why are this trigger points happening. Once the therapist finds out the cause he or she should treat it as well as treating the trigger point. If the physiotherapist doesn’t treat the original problem there is a risk that the trigger points eventually strikes back.

Different causes for trigger points:

– Bad posture or postural habits.

– Bad exercise technique.

– Recent or old traumas.

– Bad biomechanics of the cervical area.

– Stiffness on high thoracic area.

If you are suffering recurrent headaches and you would like to have an assessment, please visit us in Anatomy Rehab and we will advice you for the best solution.

Manuel Izquierdo

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