Physical Therapy for Chronic Headache Pain

heidi Active Senior Living Comments Off on Physical Therapy for Chronic Headache Pain
A physical therapist may be able to identify a specific joint in the neck that is moving poorly, or a spasm in one of the small muscles in the face or neck that when mobilized and stretched can significantly reduce or eliminate the pain being experienced by the patient.

A physical therapist may be able to identify a specific joint in the neck that is moving poorly, or a spasm in one of the small muscles in the face or neck that when mobilized and stretched can significantly reduce or eliminate the pain being experienced by the patient.

If you are getting headaches almost daily and have been suffering with constant headaches for over a year, you may have a condition known as chronic daily headache. Usually, chronic daily headache develops in people who used to get the occasional migraine, tension, or other type of headache. Women are twice as likely as men to have it.

No matter how it originates, chronic daily headache is notoriously difficult to treat and, understandably, often produces anxiety and depression, reports Harvard Medical School’s HealthBeat.

Getting control of chronic daily headaches often means weaning off regular use of pain relievers. Consider other methods to help ease headache pain, too. For example, try a cool compress on the forehead or a heating pad on tight muscles in the neck. You may want to ask your doctor to send you to a physical therapist. Techniques such as massage, ultrasound, and relaxation exercises may also help keep headaches at bay, Harvard’s HealthBeat reports.

The Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute (MHNI) published this FAQ on the use of physical therapy for headache and pain:

What are you looking for or measuring during an initial physical therapy evaluation?

At an initial evaluation, the focus is on answering three questions:  “Can I reproduce this person’s symptoms?”, “Can I alleviate this person’s symptoms?”, and “What about this person’s examination is different from a nonaffected individual?”.  Generally, if an individual’s symptoms can be reproduced or alleviated through the application of light pressure or manipulation, the physical therapist can isolate and identify those structures which are contributing to or causing the pain.

What physical therapy approaches are most helpful for chronic headache sufferers?

Many headache sufferers have already utilized various relief measures and treatments, such as heat and ice, and use them at home.  The most effective treatment for the chronic headache patient is to find the underlying structural cause or contributor to their illness and focus treatment on this area.  For example, the physical therapist may be able to identify a specific joint in the neck that is moving poorly, or a spasm in one of the small muscles in the face or neck that when mobilized and stretched can significantly reduce or eliminate the pain being experienced by the patient.

Does physical therapy produce permanent pain relief?

That depends.  When a physical therapist can get at the root of a problem, such as poor mobility in a joint or muscle spasm or postural dysfunction, and address that problem, the results can be longer lasting.  The patient may need to perform a few exercises in order to maintain the improvement.

How do you define a successful physical therapy outcome?

Pain decreases and life becomes easier.  Daily activities are not so difficult.   Range of motion is restored.  Physical activity and exercise can be resumed without increasing pain.  However, the most successful outcome is when a patient feels that success has been achieved and established goals have been met.