Observing Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, dedicated to increasing understanding and promoting effective management of these debilitating conditions. Migraines and headaches can severely impact daily life, making it essential to explore effective treatments. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how physical therapy can be valuable in managing and treating chronic migraines.

Understanding the Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

While headaches and migraines are often used interchangeably, they are distinct conditions. Headaches generally cause head, scalp, or neck pain ranging from mild to severe. They are often triggered by stress, muscle tension, or dehydration. Common types of headaches include tension, cluster, and sinus headaches.

Conversely, migraines are a specific type of headache disorder characterized by intense, throbbing pain often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last from a few hours to several days and may include visual disturbances known as auras. Unlike regular headaches, migraines often require targeted treatments to manage their symptoms and reduce their frequency.

Common Causes of Chronic Migraines

Several factors can contribute to the development of chronic migraines. Understanding these factors can help manage and potentially reduce migraine episodes.

  • Injury: Physical injuries can trigger migraines, particularly to the head or neck. Whiplash, concussions, and other forms of trauma can disrupt normal neurological function, leading to persistent migraine issues.
  • Age: While migraines can occur at any age, they are most common in adults between 18 and 44. Hormonal changes, particularly in women, can also influence the onset and severity of migraines.
  • Stress: Emotional and physical stress is a significant trigger for migraines. Stress can lead to muscle tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders, which can precipitate a migraine episode.
  • Diet: Certain foods and drinks are known to trigger migraines in some individuals. Common dietary triggers include alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, aged cheeses, and processed meats. Likewise, a lack of certain nutrients – such as dehydration, can cause migraines.
  • Other Factors: Other potential contributors to migraines include sleep disturbances, changes in weather or barometric pressure, sensory stimuli, and certain medications.

Can Physical Therapy Help with Migraines? 

Physical therapy can be a highly effective tool in addressing the symptoms and causes of migraines. At Physical Therapy Solutions (PTS), we understand the complexities of chronic migraines and offer comprehensive treatment plans tailored to each patient’s needs. 

Melissa Scott PT, DPT, one of our experienced physical therapists, provides insight into the process.First, we assess how severe and irritable their symptoms are, asking about triggers and any specific incidents that led to the migraines. We do a thorough screening to rule out any underlying vascular or spinal cord issues,” says Melissa. “Then, we conduct a detailed exam, checking for triggers, spine range of motion, and stiffness in the neck. We use hands-on soft tissue mobilizations and other techniques to relieve pressure and address any vestibular issues.

Manual therapy techniques applied by physical therapists can help alleviate muscle tension and improve blood flow, which may reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Additionally, targeted exercises can strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles, promoting better posture and reducing strain.

Melissa explains, “Generally, we can reduce migraines within a session and provide relief for a few hours. Over time, we give patients exercises to help them mobilize their neck, stretch tight muscles, and strengthen neuromuscular control. Some patients recover completely, while others learn to manage chronic symptoms.

How Long Does Therapy Usually Take?

The duration of physical therapy for migraines varies depending on the individual and the severity of their condition. According to Melissa, many patients experience significant improvement after just one session. They often leave with exercises and strategies they can implement on their own. However, more routine appointments may be necessary for some patients to achieve optimal results. 

Other factors like daily stressors, anxiety, and diet can also impact the severity of headaches and migraines. Addressing these can make the treatment more well-rounded,” Melissa adds.

The Bottom Line

Chronic migraines can be a debilitating condition, but effective management and treatment are possible with the right approach. Physical therapy offers a non-invasive, holistic option for reducing migraine frequency and severity. By addressing the root causes and providing patients with practical tools for self-management, PTS helps individuals regain control over their lives.

If you’re struggling with chronic migraines, don’t wait any longer. Request an appointment online or call us at (309) 231-0676 today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards a migraine-free life!

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