In recent years there have been a lot of research studies conducted on the use of physical therapy in treating headaches. Cervicogenic headaches, migraines, and tension headaches—all of which are common reasons for seeking medical care—respond to physical therapy in different ways.

Cervicogenic Headaches 

Cervicogenic headaches are characterized by one-sided pain that begins in the back of the head and progresses to the front, often accompanied by shoulder or arm pain on the same side. Cervicogenic headaches are thought to be caused by a neck condition and can be brought on by an accident.

Cervicogenic headaches, which are among the least frequent headache forms, are notoriously difficult to treat. Spinal manipulation is one of the only treatment options for this type of headache.

For cervicogenic headaches, options include:

Spinal Manipulation is a process in which a healthcare worker who has been trained in spinal manipulation applies a regulated force to a specific joint of your spine with their hands or a gadget.

When the force is exerted, you may hear a popping sound.

When spinal manipulation is used to treat cervicogenic headaches, the focus is on the cervical spine (the upper section of the spine in the neck).

Joint mobilization is a sort of therapy that involves passively moving your joints in order to improve movement or relieve discomfort. When utilized for headaches, this treatment focuses on the cervical spine.

Deep neck flexion exercises: Under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner, these workouts entail actively manipulating your muscles and joints.

A deep neck flexion exercise can include lying flat on the floor and performing a series of chin tucks before nodding your head. For 15 repetitions, these muscle contractions normally last 10 seconds and are followed by 10 seconds of rest.

The ultimate goal is to stretch the deep neck flexor muscles, which are necessary for neck support.

Migraine Treatment

Migraines are headaches that are accompanied by additional symptoms such as nausea and dizziness. There are drugs that can be used to prevent migraines or treat acute migraine attacks. 3 Pain injections, for example, have proven to be effective.

Migraine is usually linked with neck pain, making the distinction between migraine and cervicogenic headache difficult to make. It’s critical to consult your doctor to rule out any underlying problems and select the best course of action.

Although physical therapy is not one of the most effective or widely recommended migraine treatments, some types of PT may be helpful.

Migraine patients can benefit from these treatment options:

Neuromuscular massage, also known as trigger point therapy, relaxes muscles, improves blood flow, and even relieves stress by focusing on trigger points in the back, shoulder, neck, and head. This may help relieve symptoms by relieving pressure on nerves that send pain signals to the brain.

Multidisciplinary care intervention: This strategy has been demonstrated to be successful in lowering migraine discomfort, frequency, duration, and impairment. It involves physical therapy exercises, relaxation techniques, stress management, and nutrition counseling.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches that come and go are fairly common. They can be caused by muscle strain in the neck, shoulders, or head, and they usually alleviate with over-the-counter pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or Tylenol (acetaminophen).

This form of headache has been observed to respond well to some forms of physical therapy treatments. Chronic tension headaches, may benefit from a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates soft tissue therapy (such as trigger point therapy and stretching) as well as helping the patient manage stress.

Other treatments that may be beneficial include:

Low-load craniocervical mobilization: This technique uses a softer force than spinal manipulation. This force is given to the joints of the neck to help ease headaches, allowing for rhythmic movement of the cervical segments. Stretching is generally included in this treatment.

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