Headaches and head trauma

Physical Therapy for Headache Relief

At some point in your life, you’ve probably had a headache. While you may experience a headache for any number of reasons, like during a cold or due to stress, other types of headaches may linger and become chronic, or they may not resolve on their own. In some cases, evaluation by a physical therapist may not only lead to the diagnosis of frequent or regular headaches but to treatment and management of them as well. 

Below we outline more about different types of headaches and how physical therapy can help diagnose, treat, and manage headache-related injury or illness and allow you to address the root cause through non-invasive therapies.

Primary and Secondary Headaches

There are several different types of headaches and can be classified by whether they are primary or secondary headaches. Primary headaches do not have an underlying cause, while secondary headaches do. Regardless of whether your headache is primary or secondary, a licensed physical therapist can likely help relieve your pain with a physical therapy routine tailored to your specific needs.

Primary Headaches

Primary headaches occur alone, meaning they do not stem from any other medical condition and are not a symptom of another condition. The headache itself is the issue. Types of primary headaches include:

  • Migraines
  • Tension headaches
  • Cluster headaches

Secondary Headaches

Secondary headaches are the result of another medical condition and can be classified as a symptom or a signpost declaring the presence of an underlying issue. Treating the underlying cause of these types of headaches will help resolve the pain. Causes of secondary headaches include:

  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Sinus issues
  • Medication overuse

How Does Physical Therapy Treat Primary and Secondary Headaches?

Your physical therapist will help you determine whether or not you are suffering from a primary or secondary headache. Once the diagnosis is made, you and your physical therapist can move on to exercises and techniques to help you manage or alleviate your headache. Some techniques for alleviating headache pain include:

  • Exercises to decrease pain and promote healing
  • Manual Therapy to alleviate stiffness or increase mobility
  • Mobility training
  • Strength training

In addition to these techniques, your physical therapist may also recommend lifestyle changes such as consistently getting a full night of sleep, reducing alcohol intake, improving posture at your workstation, and eating healthy and regular meals to avoid primary headaches. Your PT will also work with you to help you understand the cause of your headaches and educate you about your condition.

Physical Therapist Evaluation of Your Headache

Physical therapists are licensed medical professionals who will conduct a non-invasive, physical examination such as examining your posture, evaluating joints and muscles of the neck, measuring your range of motion, performing muscle testing, and other similar tests. They will also review your health history. In some instances, further testing may be needed, such as imaging, and you may be referred to the appropriate provider.

Preventing Headaches or Head Pain

It may not be possible to prevent all types of headaches; however, a physical therapist can help make recommendations and educate you on ways to best avoid habits that may trigger your headaches, especially primary headaches. They may help you narrow down dietary triggers like red wine consumption, or lifestyle factors like not getting enough sleep per night to help you live headache-free. They can also help you correct daily activities such as poor posture and make recommendations to improve your at-work posture like those found in our guide here.

When to see a Physical Therapist for Headache Relief

If you are suffering from headaches or other head pain, setting up an appointment with a physical therapist is a good place to start for diagnosis and help with management or relief.  At Evolution Physical Therapy, we have several convenient locations in California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Long Island, with specialist PT providers that offer a range of physical therapy services and help to provide you with the treatment, education, and additional support you need as you recover. Reach out to us today, by calling us to set up an appointment at a location near you, or filling out our Request an Appointment form.