At some point in your life, you are liable to suffer from headache pain. Whether related to a virus, dehydration, sleep deprivation, or something more serious, such as reoccurring migraines, tension headaches, or cervicogenic neck/jaw pain, odds are you will experience some type of headache along the way. As a matter of fact, statistics show that in the United States alone, one in every six people experience headaches, with nearly 50% of the global population being affected. So, while most people will experience a headache from time to time, those that suffer from recurring headaches, related to underlying conditions, may suffer from a decrease in their quality of life and well-being. Thus, if you are experiencing regular headaches, you may be wondering where to turn. Thankfully, physical therapy can be extremely helpful in treating and mitigating painful headaches. Physical therapy works by treating headache sufferers with manual therapy, exercise, and education to attack the core cause of your headaches. Read on to learn more about physical therapy for headaches and how it can help make headaches a distant memory.   

What Are the Symptoms of Headaches?

Are you wondering what types of symptoms are included under the umbrella of headache pain? Depending on the cause of the headache and the type of headache you are experiencing, symptoms vary. Although, all headaches share some of the same symptoms, these include pain in the face, around the temples, in the jaw joints, in the ear, at the back of the head, at the base of the skull, pain when chewing, and/or neck, shoulder, or upper back pain. Some headaches last several hours, while some linger on for days. Migraines, in particular, may lead to nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity. No matter, what type of headache symptoms you are experiencing, you don't have to just keep pushing through. If headaches are starting to take away from your quality of life, physical therapy can help.

What Can I Expect at My First Appointment?

Prior to beginning any form of physical therapy treatment for headaches, you will first meet with your physical therapist where a comprehensive health evaluation will be completed. During this time, the therapist will take a deep dive into your medical history, ask you questions, have you fill out questionnaires, and use diagnostic tests to determine what the root cause of your headaches may be. They will ask questions about any past history of injuries, about the type of pain, the location of the pain, and if you have noticed any common denominators for when the headaches strike. During this part of the process, it is important that you be as forthcoming as possible, so your therapist has a full picture of your current state of health and what may be causing your symptoms. Once they have gathered enough information, they will then formulate a tailored treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms and improve your health. This will likely include several treatment modalities. In addition, they will also provide you with a detailed explanation of what to expect during each session, including what to wear, what activities you should avoid, and what to expect after each session.

Manual Therapy for Headaches

Manual physical therapy for headaches is any form of treatment that uses hands-on techniques to relieve headache pain. This includes joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, myofascial release, ultrasound, and trigger point dry needling. Physical therapy practices utilize these techniques to treat headaches by addressing the root cause of the condition rather than merely treating symptoms. Thus, if you're looking for long-lasting relief from headache pain, without resorting to medication, manual physical therapy is a great choice. This is because this method of treatment it is able to remove joint/muscle stiffness, mitigate tension and spasms in the muscles, and improve the range of motion of the head/neck. When used correctly, this hands-on treatment is one of the single most effective ways of obtaining relief from painful headaches.

Tailored Exercise Plan

Another important part of physical therapy treatment for headaches is the implementation of a home exercise plan. While manual therapy is an important part of recovery, if you don't continue the work at home, you won't see lasting results. A tailored exercise program should include exercises designed to address the specific areas of the body that are leading to your headache symptoms. In addition, it should also include stretches, strengthening exercises, and other activities that promote overall health and wellness. These exercises should be performed daily to ensure they remain effective. When added as part of a comprehensive treatment program, a home exercise program can encourage lasting healing, mitigate or resolve pain, improve health/wellness, and quell inflammation, so you can get back to living life without the debilitating impacts of chronic headaches.


The third part of creating lasting relief from headaches is through education. It is important to recognize and understand the why behind your headaches, so you can make lasting lifestyle changes. For example, if you are experiencing headaches due to dehydration, lack of sleep, posture, or work habits, you can learn to identify these triggers and create a plan to change behaviors that lead to your headaches, going forward. Understanding the root cause behind the headaches can help you prevent future episodes, so you don't keep merely treating the symptoms of a larger lifestyle problem. Whether it is getting more sleep at night, drinking more water during the day, limiting caffeine, reducing stress, exercising regularly, or improving your posture, knowledge is power. With the right education and plan in place, you can reduce the severity and frequency of painful headaches.

What Are the Benefits of Choosing Physical Therapy to Treat Headaches?

There are many benefits associated with choosing physical therapy to treat headaches. One benefit is that it is noninvasive, which means you won't be required to undergo anesthesia or surgery and you won't have to worry about related complications. Physical therapy can also lesson or entirely eliminate the need for pain medication by targeting the cause of the headaches, rather than the symptoms, to create lasting healing and protect you from the often harsh side effects that may accompany these types of medications.  Simply put, physical therapy is a low-risk, high-reward treatment that can give you back your quality of life and restore your body to full, healthy functioning once more. 

If you are suffering from chronic headaches, don't go another day suffering from the pain and discomfort associated with them. Consider seeking out physical therapy services today for lasting healing that addresses the source of your pain!