If you do an image search for “physical therapy” on Google, you will see many pictures of therapists treating patients’ arms and legs. Although physical therapy is often focused on the extremities, it can also be used to manage migraine pain.

Migraine is a pain disorder rooted in the central nervous system that changes the flow of neurological impulses and blood, leading to discomfort and other migraine symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting). While medication strategies often directly target the central nervous system, physical therapy is an effort to restore the body by strengthening and loosening peripheral joints and muscles.

Migraine is a diverse disease, so not everyone will be helped with this therapy.

You will experience pain relief with physical therapy if your migraine attacks are related to the condition of your joints and muscles. If you have classic migraine and only experience headaches occasionally, physical therapy may not be helpful. Nonetheless, it is a powerful tool for many patients.

How physical therapists accomplish migraine pain relief

According to the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute (MHNI), specific physical therapy strategies can be used to treat migraine pain.

Self-therapy can be accomplished through relaxation methods and ice. Family members can potentially learn basic massage approaches or how to conduct spinal traction.

Migraine headaches are often accompanied with neck tightness and pain. While the neck discomfort is not believed to be the source of the migraine, regular stretching allows for immediate, all-natural pain relief.

What if your pain originated in the joints or muscles?

A specific pool of patients is well-suited to experience improvement with physical therapy – those whose migraines coexist with musculoskeletal disorders of the neck or jaw.

The joints and muscles of the neck and jaw can produce head pain in one of two ways – referred pain and migraine. A common example of pain referral is what happens during a heart attack. Although the heart is located in the chest, we may feel a heart attack occurring in our left arm or shoulder. When the heart is struggling, it often refers pain to the arm. The joints and muscles of the neck, in a similar manner to a heart attack, refer pain to the head.

The other way the neck and jaw structures can lead to headache is through a migraine: pain in those areas serves as a migraine trigger.

MNHI reports that by using physical therapy for migraine pain relief, “the hope is that by adequately treating the problems in the neck or jaw, one trigger for the individual’s migraine problem can be eliminated or greatly reduced.”

Our physical therapy programs correct movement patterns to establish musculoskeletal balance, reducing pain and inflammation. Get the care you deserve!