Headaches or Migraine

As a headache sufferer, you’ll know how disruptive and inconvenient a severe headache attack can be on your quality of life. A persistent and frequent headache indicates a need for expert assessment and treatment.

While it’s important to rule out serious disorders such as haemorrhage and brain tumours, most headaches have a non-serious cause originating from the structures in and around the neck joints. Physiotherapy can successfully treat headaches caused by these structures that include muscles, joints and soft-tissue.


Headaches can result due to a variety of reasons that include stress, arthritis, poor posture, accidents, and medication. Your physiotherapist will ask you a range of specific questions before performing a physical assessment to determine the cause of your headache.


The most common type of headache is the cervicogenic (neck) headache which is caused by dysfunctions in one or a combination of your upper neck joints, muscles or nerves. These neck dysfunctions include;

  • Joint stiffness
  • Excessive movement of the neck
  • Joint instability,
  • Tight, weak or overactive muscles
  • Pinched or stretched nerves


Your headache may also fall into the other two most common categories; tension-type headache and migraine. Your physio will use important clues from your appointment to determine the type and cause of your headache, this includes assessment on a combination of factors such as;

  • Whether pain is felt on one side, both sides or alternating sides of the head
  • Frequency of headache
  • Throbbing sensations
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling sensations or numbness
  • Sensitivity to noise or light


There are many forms of headache and migraine which is why a definitive diagnosis is conducted to ensure appropriate treatment. Physiotherapy can determine if manual therapies will help or if further investigation is necessary. Treatment may involve;

  • Explanation of your specific condition
  • Postural correction
  • Gentle joint mobilizations to allow proper range of movement in the neck
  • Massage of tight muscle groups
  • Stretching of the dense connective tissues surrounding the upper neck
  • Neck exercises to strengthen and prevent further weakness and injury
  • Advice on activities to promote or avoid
  • Referral for medication or scans from a GP is necessary

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