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Common Treatments for Headaches in Physical Therapy

by | Jul 31, 2018 | Dizziness Physical Therapy, Headaches, Neck Physical Therapy | 4 comments

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There are different types of headaches, with as many being caused by a varying range of conditions.  In many cases these pains derive from issues with muscles and joints of the neck. While medication may help to relieve the symptoms, often the underlying cause of a headache is left untreated, and the symptoms will most likely return. Most people don’t realize that specific physical therapy techniques can help to reduce the pain and provide relief for headache problems, especially those caused by musculoskeletal issues. These include muscle tension and tightness, disc pathology, lack of neck motion, poor posture, stiff joints and even tightness in the back, neck, and shoulders.

Since various structures can cause headaches, it’s essential that a thorough assessment is done so that every muscle, joint, and nerve that is contributing to discomfort can be identified and treated. A physical therapy examination will pinpoint the cause of your headache and determine a physical therapy treatment to relieve the symptoms and treat the origin of the pain. Both cervicogenic and tension headaches are highly treatable in physical therapy with a combination of hands-on manual therapy and physical therapy exercises.

Manual Therapy
Manual physical therapy is a clinical approach that uses specific hands-on techniques, including manipulation/mobilization to diagnose and treat soft tissues (i.e., muscles) and joint structures to restore normal muscle function. It can be extremely effective at eliminating daily tension headaches or chronic migraines.

Spine Therapy
Neck and upper thoracic spine massage and manipulation techniques are used for the treatment of patients with head and neck disorders, including neck pain and stiffness, muscle-tension headache, and migraine. Manipulation and mobilization (movement imposed on joints and muscles) can be used alone or in combination with other physical therapies. The goal of this treatment technique is to reduce pain, improve motion and restore function to the head and neck region.

Spinal traction can be performed manually or mechanically as a form of decompression therapy to relieve pressure on the spine. The technique stretches the spine to take pressure off compressed discs helping to reduce pain and inflammation that often contributes to headaches.

Pain Relieving Modalities
Our physical therapists use a variety of modalities to reduce pain and restore function. Among them include the use of thermal therapy [heat and cold], ultrasound, electrical, sound, light and mechanical agents to relieve pain and joint swelling as well as restore functional joint mobility.

Deep Tissue Massage
This is a common physical therapy technique that involves the application of pressure and friction to the affected area to help decrease pain, reduce muscle tension and improve circulation. Whether your tightness is coming from sitting at a desk all day or sporting activity, a deep tissue massage can help.

Posture Correction and Advice
If the history of your headaches suggests that the most probable cause is poor posture and ergonomics (especially if you sit too slouched hurting the joints or sit too straight overloading the muscles), your physiotherapist can make suggestions that will help to improve your posture. We analyze your body posture and use corrective measures to restore proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system.

Additional exercises are performed in physical therapy to increase strength and endurance of the neck muscles and upper back muscles. Exercise is a non-invasive method of treatment that’s incorporated into a physical therapy program, and usually involves activities that the patient can perform on their own, in addition to the clinical setting with a therapist.

Our physical therapists care about your overall well-being and are committed to helping you incorporate strategies to minimize your muscle and joint tightness for headache relief.  Feel free to reach out if you require a consultation to learn what you can do to start feeling better today.


  1. furtdso linopv

    Wohh just what I was looking for, regards for putting up.

    • Matt Smith

      My pleasure!

  2. branding

    thanks for this post

    • Matt Smith

      You’re welcome!


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