How Physical Therapy Can Help Manage Your Headaches
Headaches affect around 90% of the American population with over 10% of the
population experiencing chronic headaches. Headaches are classified based on the
type and location of pain in the head and all vary in levels of intensity. While some
headaches are harmless and resolve themselves within a short amount of time,
others can severely affect an individual’s daily routine.
- Headaches Can Interfere With:
- Types of Headaches:
Migraine Secondary Headaches
How Your Physical Therapist Can Help:
During an evaluation with your PT, the root cause of your headaches will be
determined based on a thorough history and examination. Once the type of
headache has been diagnosed by your PT, and individualized treatment plan will
then be made to address your specific symptoms.
The two types of headaches most commonly treated with physical therapy include
Cervicogenic and Tension type headaches:
- Cervicogenic Headaches – originate from the structures in the cervical spine
and the pain often radiates to the back of the head, or the side of the neck.
These headaches are caused by a dysfunction in the upper cervical spine and
can be associated with unilateral neck and head pain. Commonly, patients
will complain of increased symptoms with active movement of their head
and increased muscle tenderness in the cervical musculature. Other
symptoms include: dizziness, nausea, shoulder or arm pain, and upper
- Tension Headaches – a variety of factors can lead to a tension headache
including stress, poor posture, and poor sleep quality. Tension headaches
usually present bilaterally and are mostly associated with cervical
A treatment plan put together by your physical therapist may include:
- Mobilization of the cervical spine
- Education from your therapist about lifestyle, identifying stressors or triggers, improving ergonomic set up at work, etc.
- Postural stabilization and scapular strengthening exercises
- Soft tissue mobilization
Most patients that treat their cervicogenic and tension headaches with a conservative approach put together by their physical therapists will see a significant decrease in the intensity and frequency of their headache symptoms in around 4
When my work office changed locations and my driving commute went from a 30-
minute drive to close to a 2-hour drive, I noticed my neck pain and frequency of
headaches increase. Not only was I spending close to 4 hours a day driving, but I
also was putting in long hours of sitting at my desk once I got to work. My neck pain
and headaches started to interfere with my focus and efficiency at work and most of
my time outside of work was spent hoping that another headache wouldn’t come on.
I realized quickly I needed help – that is where EPTG came in.
During my first visit, my therapist took a very detailed history and performed an
examination to figure out what was causing my pain and headaches. By the end of
the first session I had a better understanding of what was causing my headaches,
things I could change throughout my day to improve my symptoms, taught a specific
set of exercises to improve my posture, and was educated of my plan of care moving
After 4 weeks of being treated at EPTG, my headaches and neck pain have
significantly reduced and I am back to enjoying my day-to-day routine without
worrying about my headaches.
- Sammi, 27
Contact Exchange Physical Therapy Group if you are experiencing headaches
that have affected your daily routine and quality of life, we are here to help!