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Physical Therapy & Migraines

Are you having trouble getting through an entire day without the constant chronic pain of a migraine?  Migraines and other headaches are extremely painful and can be present anywhere in the face, eyes, head, or neck. At Access Physical Therapy & Wellness, we understand the stress and panic that is associated with the intense pain in these headaches. If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, here is information about the two most common types of headaches, the symptoms, and how you can benefit from physical therapy.


Two Types of Migraines

  1. Primary headache– this is the most common type of headache that occurs for no obvious reason. It’s a result of a problem with the brain function rather than the brain structure, which can mean they are almost never dangerous. Some examples of these headaches include a migraine, tension-type, and cluster.

–          Tension-Type/Migraine Headache: A headache that is generally diffuse with mild to moderate pain that is often described as feeling like a tight band around the head. The headache may worsen in certain positions, such as sitting, and ease with rest.

Some symptoms of a primary headache may include:

  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Head pain


  1. Secondary headache– this is the type of headache that usually arises from a neck or head disorder, which can lead to more concerns. If you are experiencing these headaches, it could be due to a serious disease or other conditions such as brain tumors, aneurysms, inflammatory diseases, or abnormalities of the spinal fluid.

–          Cervicogenic Headache: A headache that is from the neck and shoulders. The underlying problem is orthopedic in nature arising from the cervical spine or the surrounding musculature.

Certain warning signs or symptoms of a secondary headache may suggest that you have a more serious problem. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Swelling of the optic nerves
  • A headache not responding to treatment


Benefits of Physical Therapy

If it is determined that your headaches are from a cause which physical therapy can treat, then a few treatment options may include:

  • Manual therapy such as a massage or joint mobilization
  • In some cases, modalities such as ice, heat, ultrasound, interferential current, laser, transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulators or muscle stimulators may be used to ease your headache pain or other related symptoms.
  • Education for self-managing your headache

Physical therapists are experts in conservative treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions that are relatively new or have been present for years. For headaches, a physical therapist utilizes a combination of manual therapy, exercise therapy, and education. A few of the benefits include:

  • Reduces head, neck, and shoulder pain
  • Restores spinal alignment
  • Strengthens the muscles that support the neck and shoulder
  • Normalizes and restores neck range motion
  • Reduces clenching and grinding of teeth and the tightness or pain they cause
  • Improves your posture- your Physical Therapist will discuss your posture and alignment and ensure you are aware of the posturing positions that may contribute to your headache pain or related symptoms.


Each patient’s headaches require careful diagnostic assessment to determine whether or not there is an underlying cause. For more information about the treatment of headaches, and how Access Physical Therapy & Wellness can help, please visit or contact us today.