There are many different types of headaches and sources of headaches: migraines, cluster headaches, tension headaches, and of course cervicogenic headaches. While physical therapy may be beneficial in some way for all of these, it has excellent success treating cervicogenic headaches.
Cervicogenic headaches are headaches that have some form of cervical spine origin. This can be muscle tightness, trigger point referral, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), and nerve irritation, among others. Typically, the symptoms present on one side and do not change sides. You may have the pain or headache at the base of the head but can also be around the eye, temporal or frontal regions.
There is a plethora of evidence to support manual therapy techniques such as mobilization and manipulation of the cervical and thoracic spine to help with headaches, especially when coupled with exercise. Dry needling can also be extremely useful as well. Dry needling is a technique where needles combined with electric stimulation can act as a stimulus to the nervous system and has been shown to lengthen muscles. Through these effects, dry needling can help treat headaches either by releasing trigger points, relaxing tight muscles, or altering the stimulus to the nervous system.
Foothills Physical Therapy offers dry needling to our clients when appropriate. For cases involving headaches, typically dry needling is considered in the upper back, neck and jaw regions. This is incorporated with other manual therapy techniques and exercise to help transition you to self-management of your care.
DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT