older woman with grey hair laying down during physical therapy exam

Headaches & Migraines

Headaches are common and can have many causes, from a neck or jaw condition to daily habits like poor posture, fatigue, or stress. Physical therapy can help manage and alleviate pain associated with headaches and migraines.

Physical therapy for headaches & migraines

Headaches are one of the most common types of pain–and that pain can be debilitating. Most causes of headaches are benign and can be managed with conservative physical therapy, but proper treatment depends on the type of headache, frequency, and cause.

Causes of headaches & migraines

A few key factors cause most headaches:

  • Muscle tension and tightness
  • Decreased neck range of motion
  • Tight muscles between the shoulder blades
  • Episodes of dizziness or vertigo
  • Teeth grinding or bruxing
  • Vascular issues
  • Sinus issues
older man sitting during physical therapy appointment for headaches

Some headaches are caused by muscle and joint problems of the neck or jaw. These can arise after a motor vehicle accident, fall, concussion, surgery, or without apparent cause.

The two most common types managed through physical therapy are cervicogenic headaches and tension-type headaches:

  • A neck problem causes Cervicogenic headaches, and the pain is referred to the head. Typical symptoms include pain on one side of the head and are typically felt at the base of the skull, behind the eye, or radiating in a line between the two.
  • Tension-type headaches are typically related to stress and are described as a dull, aching pain that is felt along the forehead and can radiate to the sides and back of the head. In addition, soreness in the neck and shoulder muscles may also be felt.

Headache and migraine symptoms

Patients suffering from headaches and/or migraines may experience the following symptoms:

Headaches

  • Head pain that varies depending on the type of headache
  • Pain is mild to moderate, but not severe

Migraines

  • Throbbing or pulsing sensation in the head
  • Nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
male physical therapist treating his female patient

How we treat headaches & migraines

A physical therapist will complete a comprehensive evaluation to determine the musculoskeletal causes of your headaches and create a customized physical therapy program to address your needs. Treatment for headaches and migraines may include:

Headache & migraine diagnoses physical therapy can treat

Multiple issues can cause headaches. Here are a few of the most common:

Headache & migraine resources

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What to expect

Your first physical therapy appointment is about creating a personalized treatment plan based on your health history, diagnosis, and goals. Here’s what you can expect at your first physical therapy appointment:

Your first appointment will last about an hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early.

If applicable, bring your physician referral or prescription, insurance card, paperwork, ID, and co-payment.

At your appointment, we’ll do an initial evaluation and discuss your care plan.

*Services are not available at every location. Visit our Locations page for more details.

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