Migraines? Does Physical Therapy Really Work?

  [contact-form to=’[email protected]’ subject=’Migraine Blog Comments’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] 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:

  • Referred pain – meaning pain felt in a part of the body other than its actual source. For example, many times the upper trapezius muscle on the top of the shoulder, which is commonly overused during activities such as computer work, can develop trigger points, which are basically a “muscle knot” or a small patch of muscle tissue in spasm.  This contracture can refer pain up the neck and into the head causing the migraine.
  • Neck or jaw structure – in some individuals, cervical spine issues or muscle tightness can create pain and trigger a migraine.

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.

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.

Young businesswoman has splitting headache pain migraine

Young businesswoman has splitting headache pain migraine