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Ask the Therapist Lindsay Scott, DPT Question: Can physical therapy help with my headaches?
| Date Posted: 1/17/2019
Answer: There are numerous types of headaches. Narrowing
down the cause of your headache is an important first step.
Physical therapy is not the solution for all headaches, but
has proven to be very successful in treating patients with
tension type, neck-related and even migraine headaches.
Tension type headaches are typically caused by tension in the
muscles of the face and neck. This is the most prevalent type
of headache, affecting nearly 40 percent of the population.1
Neck-related headaches are typically attributed to structural
issues in the cervical spine (neck). Problems in the cervical
spine and the muscles of the head and neck can also cause
pain that radiates into the face and ears, resembling sinus
pain and/or ear troubles.
While migraine headaches are not usually triggered by
musculo-skeletal issues, a study performed revealed that the
presence of trigger points in neck muscles made migraine
patients worse. They found that in some patients, local trigger
point treatment significantly decreased the number of attacks
A total of 51.1 percent of females and 38.1
percent of male patients who experience migraines have
reported six or more lost work days per year.3
71 percent of patients have reported a lack of satisfaction with their
medicinal migraine treatment.4
A reduction in the number of headache attacks from trigger point treatment resulted in a
substantial reduction of need for migraine medications and
lost work days.
If you suffer from headaches, talk with your doctor about
the possibility of physical therapy to assist with your pain and debilitation.
We will assess the muscles of your neck and face
to look for the presence of trigger points, evaluate the joints in
your cervical spine to detect if hypomobility or rotation may
be present, and also look at possible postural strain. I have
found that almost every patient with head and neck pain has
significant muscular tension that can be resolved by trigger
point dry needling and manual releases. Often, rotation of the
upper neck bones or decreased movement of the upper and
lower spine is present. This is typically caused by shortened
and tightened muscles that attach to the spine, causing
altered positioning of the joints.
Once the normal elasticity of the muscles has been
restored, we are able to use joint mobilizations to assist with
normalized positioning and mobility of the spine, which in
turn reduces headache triggers. Correction of any postural
strain can then be addressed by strengthening the muscles
that support and stabilize the spine. This assists in preventing
the return of dysfunction and pain.
Let us help you decrease or resolve your headache symptoms
and improve your quality of life!
When you need Rehab ... You need FirstHealth.
Lindsay Scott, DPT
Lindsay Scott is originally from Tennessee. She graduated from
The University of Tennessee in 2010 and earned her doctorate in
physical therapy from The University of Tennessee Health Science
Center in 2013. She also became certified to practice Trigger Point
Dry Needling through Myopain Seminars in 2014. She has been
practicing with FirstHealth Rehabilitation since 2015.
1. Schwartz B, Stewart WF, Simon D, Lipton RB. Epidemiology of tension-type headache. JAMA. 1998;279:381-383.
2. Giamberadino MA, Tafuri E, Savini A, Fabrizio A, Affaitati G, Lezra R, Ianni L, Lapenna D, Mezzetti A. Contribution of Myofascial Trigger Points to Migraine Symptoms. The Journal of Pain. 2007;8(11):869-207.
3. Stewart WF, Lipton RB, Simon D. Work-related disability: results from the American migraine study. Cephalalgia. 1996;16(4):231-238.
4. Lipton RB, Stewart WF. Acute migraine therapy: do doctors understand what patients with migraine want from therapy? Headache. 1999;39 (suppl 2):S20-S26.
To find a physical therapist at a FirstHealth location in the region,
contact FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Rehabilitation at (910) 715-1600.