While some headaches can be worse than others, they can all be pretty exhausting. What many people don’t know is that there are different types of headaches and with certain types, physiotherapy can help!

  • Migraines

Migraines can be caused by several factors including but not limited to hormonal changes, fatigue, stress, strong odors/lights, loud noises and foods. They are described as a moderate or severe pulsating type of pain lasting from several hours to a maximum of three days.

Individuals suffering from migraines may experience nausea & vomiting, be sensitive to lights and sounds and unable to accomplish their everyday activities. Others may suffer additionally with visual disturbances, dizziness, numbness and weakness (migraine with aura)

Management of migraines can include changes in lifestyle, changes in nutrition, medications and avoiding precipitating factors.

  • Tension Type Headaches

These type of headaches may be caused by muscle tension around the head and neck. This can often be associated to bad posture, stress sleep deprivation, irregular meals etc.

The pain is often a bilateral, mild to moderate pressure type of pain lasting between 30 minutes to 7 days.

Movement and physical activity usually decreases the symptoms as well as postural correction through education, strengthening exercises and stretches.

  • Cervicogenic headaches

The third type of headaches respond well to physiotherapy treatment. These type of headaches originate from stiff joints and musculoskeletal dysfunctions in the neck. This can be due to poor posture, muscle imbalances, previous traumas etc.

Pain will often refer from the back of the neck to the forehead, eyes, temples and/or ears, and is often unilateral. The pain experience is often dull and aching and ranges from moderate to severe. The individual will often complain of stiffness and restricted movements of the neck. The pain is worse with certain movements/sustained postures and tenderness can be felt at the cervical region. Applying pressure at the base of the skull can sometimes help to decrease the pain.

Physiotherapists will help by educating the individual on the condition, positions to avoid and proper postures during all activities of daily living. Other modalities include manual therapy (i.e. joint mobilizations), soft tissue releases, the use of electric modalities and a home exercise program that includes both stretching and strengthening exercises.



Audette, I. (2016). PHTH-623 : Differential Diagnosis and Management; Headaches [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from My Courses.

Bain, K. (2013) Physio? For Headaches?! Who Knew! Pivotal Physiotherapy (2019). Retrieved on November 13 2019, from https://pivotalphysio.com/physio-for-headaches-who-knew/.

Migraines and Headache. WebMD LLC. (2005-2019) Retrieved on November 13 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/default.htm.