Migraines & Headaches
Physical therapy for the relief of headaches/migraines
The commonly recommended cure for chronic migraines usually involves lots of medications. Some individuals do not tolerate migraine medication due to side effects or prefer to avoid medication for other reasons. Physical therapy is an excellent alternative treatment option available for migraine sufferers.
The extent to which the muscles and joints are involved in the headache will determine how well a chronic migraine sufferer will respond to physical therapy. For the individuals with musculoskeletal problems involving the neck and/or jaw, physical therapy is highly likely to be helpful and may even prevent migraines from occurring in the first place. There are several ways that dysfunctions with muscles and joints can produce migraines:
- Referred pain – meaning pain felt in a part of the body other than its actual source. For example, many times the upper trapezius muscle on the top of the shoulder, which is commonly overused during activities such as computer work, can develop trigger points, which are basically a “muscle knot” or a small patch of muscle tissue in spasm. This contracture can refer pain up the neck and into the head causing the migraine.
- Neck or jaw structure – in some individuals, cervical spine issues or muscle tightness can create pain and trigger a migraine.
In these instances, treating the problem with physical therapy may greatly reduce or even eliminate the individual’s migraines. The goal of physical therapy is to reduce stress and tension on soft tissues and joints, as well as addressing posture, alignment, and strength issues in order to normalize the musculoskeletal system.
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