Migraines? Does Physical Therapy Really Work?

-  Submitted by Dr. Genevieve Griffin, PT, DPT, OCS, GCFP. 

Physical therapy for migraines?

Chronic migraines occur in about 15% of the general population. Migraine headaches can be severe and debilitating, causing the sufferer to miss extended periods of time from work as well as fun activities and everyday life.  The cure for chronic migraines is generally elusive and many times, involve lots of various medications.  Some individuals do not tolerate migraine medication due to side effects or prefer to avoid medication for other reasons. Physical therapy is an alternative treatment option available for migraine sufferers.

Migraines are caused by a disorder in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) involving the nerves and blood vessels.  Medications affect the central nervous system to try and address the dysfunction whereas physical therapy primarily involves the muscles and joints in the peripheral nervous system.  Depending upon the extent to which the muscles and joints are involved in the headache determines how well a chronic migraine sufferer will respond to physical therapy.

Muscles, Joints, and Pain, OH MY!

For 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:

In these instances, treating the problem with physical therapy may greatly reduce or even eliminate the individual’s migraines.

Will physical therapy work for me?

A thorough evaluation by a physical therapist that is knowledgeable and experienced in treating individuals with migraine headaches can determine whether and to what extent physical therapy treatment may be helpful.  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.

-  Submitted by Dr. Genevieve Griffin, PT, DPT, OCS, GCFP. 

About Dr. Genevieve Griffin, PT, DPT, OCS, GCFP

Genny graduated from Shenandoah University in 1993 with a Master of Physical Therapy degree and later returned to earn her Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree in 2004. Since then, she has become a Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist, a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, and has also received her certification in Trigger Point Dry Needling and a Private Practice Management Certificate. Genny has taken advanced training in Pilates for Rehabilitation and Physical Mind Mat and Apparatus Concentration programs. She also has extensive Manual Therapy, Myofascial Release, Cranial-Sacral and Osteopathic-Based advanced training. Outside of work, Genny enjoys traveling, visiting family, yoga, hiking, the outdoors and spending time with her 2 golden retrievers, Lucy and Sissy. She also enjoys cooking international dishes, especially Persian dishes.


To learn more about physical therapy treatment for migraines, please click here.

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