Another piece in the management puzzle

Musculoskeletal approaches to headache pain

Some headaches are caused by issues with our muscles and joints. Physical therapy can treat headaches that are caused by musculoskeletal issues including muscle tension and tightness, disc pathology, lack of neck motion, poor posture, and even tightness in the back between the shoulder blades. Many patients who come to therapy with neck symptoms will also report frequent headaches, some unaware that the two may be connected.

The physical therapist performs an evaluation to determine the source of headache symptoms and what to do about them. Once determined that the headaches are most likely originating from the neck or surrounding areas, several treatment methods may be used. Treatment may include use of heat or ice, ultrasound, myofascial release, primal reflex release, soft tissue mobilization, cervical traction, muscle energy techniques, shoulder blade, mid back, rib, and neck mobilizations, neck stretches, neck and mid back strengthening, McKenzie based diagnosis and therapy of the spine, and posture education. Each patient is treated differently, as each headache has its own unique source.

Physical therapy treatment for headaches can be extremely effective. Some patients may come into the clinic with a headache in their first visit and leave without one. Some patients may require a few weeks of therapy to address more severe motion and strength issues.

Persistent headaches that are musculoskeletal in nature and have been occurring for a long time may not go away completely until they are addressed with therapy.