women holding head with headache or migraine

Physical Therapy Can Help Alleviate Migraines


BY: Branden Fleishman,DPT- Mechanicsburg,PA

Have you ever experienced a headache that starts as a dull ache and quickly progresses to a throbbing or pulsating pain along one side of your head? You may have been having a migraine.

Approximately 11 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. Often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and visual disturbances, migraines more commonly affect women and those 25-55 years of age. The intense, throbbing pain can debilitate for hours or even days.

Visual disturbances, or auras, often precipitate a migraine. Common auras include blurred vision, eye pain, sensitivity to light, and seeing stars. Migraines can have multiple triggers, making them challenging for health care professionals to manage.

Triggers for migraines include:

  • Muscular tension
  • Posture
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Diet
    • Foods such as dairy, chocolate, or those high in sodium
    • Drinks such as alcohol or caffeine
    • Weather – changes in seasons or barometric pressure
    • Lack of sleep
    • Hormones – changes with menstruation or ovulation
    • Loud noises or bright lights
    • Odors, perfumes or smoke exposure

Physical therapy can help alleviate migraines depending on individual causes. Your physical therapist can provide you with appropriate exercises and relaxation techniques to reduce stress.

For instance:

1. Manual techniques, including soft tissue and joint mobilizations, can release muscle tension in the neck.

2. Appropriate strengthening and flexibility exercises focused on postural education can improve range of motion in the head and neck and with alignment of the spine.

3. Education and recommendations on work or lifestyle modifications may be incorporated.

If you suffer from migraine headaches, consult with your physician about treatment options, including working with a physical therapist.


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