Physical Therapy for Migraine: Benefits, Risks, Side Effects, How Long Does Physical Therapy For Migraine Last?

Migraine is a condition that is marked by intense headaches that are accompanied by nausea, light sensitivity, numbness, and tingling. There are various treatments that can help overcome the symptoms of migraine and physical therapy is one of them.

Benefits of Physical therapy for Migraine

Due to the lack of knowledge in the treatment of migraine and overreliance on medication for pain relief, physical therapy is not considered in the treatment plan for migraine. Not many studies are done that focus on the effectiveness of physical therapy for migraine and a few studies done focus just on one type of migraine.(1)

A review of studies noted that 2 main approaches of physical therapy may benefit in migraine, which are:(4)

  • Addressing injuries of muscle, tendons, nerves, joints, and tendons.
  • Addressing posture and inner-ear-related balance issues.

Risks and Side Effects of Physical Therapy on Migraine

In order to ensure appropriate treatment, it is important to take the treatment from a physical therapist, who is aware of the proper techniques and has knowledge.

Sometimes physical therapy may lead to worsening of the symptoms and some might experience no change in the symptoms at all with the treatment.

Types of Exercises involved in Physical Therapy Treatment for Migraine

Physical therapy treatment may vary from person to person and their symptoms. The types of exercises are:

  1. Stretches

    Stretching and guiding on body mechanics and posture are a few physical therapy exercises that can help in migraine. This can help in positioning the head and neck in a proper way, which helps in minimizing tension. Releasing the tension of muscles helps in reducing migraine symptoms.

  2. Mobilization

    Soft tissue mobilization is a technique that helps in relaxing the trigger points that worsen migraine headaches. It is another tool used by the physical therapist in treating migraine.

  3. Heat and Ice

    Heat and ice are applied to the neck and skull to decrease pain and inflammation. This helps in relaxing tight muscles and improving circulation. It can be an effective treatment if done before stretches.

  4. Massage

    Due to stiff muscles, the neck motion is limited and there is head pain. Massage performed by a physical therapist can help in improving mobility.

    A special technique known as the suboccipital release can be performed to loosen the muscle allowing improved motion and decreased nerve irritation.

  5. Vestibular Therapy

    Vestibular therapy can be beneficial if someone is experiencing vertigo and dizziness due to migraine. It is a specialized rehabilitation that involves head, neck, and gaze stabilization exercises to improve the vestibular system function.

  6. Education

    Education on physical therapy is also a part of the treatment. A therapist educates the person on how to:

    • Sit properly
    • Align head and neck properly
    • Reduce muscle tension
    • Exercise and stretch the relaxed muscles and increase the range of motion

Physical Therapy for Other Headaches

Physical therapy can be effective in treating other types of headaches as well.

Cervicogenic Headache: It is a type of headache that originated from the cervical spine. Physical therapy is often prescribed for this type of headache(2). The therapist can analyze the areas contributing to the trouble and do manual techniques to relieve tension and pain and improve the range of motion of the neck.

Tension-Type Headache: This headache is stress-related and is caused by the contraction of muscles in the head and neck area. Physical therapy in this case may help relieve the tension of the stressed neck and head area and also help in positioning. During the treatment, education is provided on how to reduce tension and relax.

How Long Does a Physical Therapy Treatment for Migraine Last?

Physical therapy, in most cases of migraine, can last for up to 4-6 weeks. There may be a bit of relief in the first few days of therapy and some might even have an aggravation of the symptoms.

Some people continue having migraine headaches for months even after the treatment. They use the techniques taught to them by the physical therapist to alleviate the symptoms.

How long therapy will last for a particular person depend on the condition of the person and the analysis of the therapist.

If you continue having pain after a period of physical therapy treatment, it is important to visit your healthcare provider and go ahead with other treatment options.

Medications are the most common migraine treatments. Lifestyle changes, stress reduction, and physical therapy and be helpful in reducing the occurrence of the symptoms.

More research is needed to know about the effectiveness of physical therapy in treating migraine. It is important to speak with a doctor and know about the potential risk and benefits and decide what is best for you.

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