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Migraines and Headaches can be Draining

Regions of the cerebral cortex associated with...

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According to WebMD, 45 million Americans suffer chronic and reoccurring headaches of which 28 million are migraine. 20% of children and adolescents have significant headaches.  There are different types of headaches: tension, sinus, cluster and rebound headaches in addition to migraines.

Tension headaches occur in 4out of 100 people and can last 30 minutes to 7 days.  They may start in childhood but usually start in middle age.  Tension headaches usually result in pressure or constant pain that is not throbbing.  The pressure may be on either side of your head like your head is in a vise, aching at the temples, behind the eyes, or in the  neck.  Sinus headaches tend to be over the forehead or cheeks where the sinuses are.  These headaches are usually not severe and don’t interfere with your work or social life.

Migraines usually occur on one side of the head and are severe and throbbing.  Patients complain of nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, or blurred vision.  Migraines can last hours to 3 days and often occur 1-4x/month.  Many women have menstrual migraines that occur only with their monthly period.  People sometimes report “auras” or flashing lights that are a precursor to the migraine and let them know the migraine is coming.  Some people have food triggers like caffeine in coffees, teas, and chocolate.

Physical Therapy is often effective in addressing migraines and headaches.  I have successfully treated many patients with headache and migraine.  Many patients report waking with head ache pain which I believe is often related to their pillow.  I like down or feather  pillows that can be manipulated and provide good support to the neck without excessive flexion or bending the head forward.   Muscle tension headaches are often successfully treated with joint and soft tissue mobilization of the cervical spine or upper neck. These joints can be very stiff with associated muscle tightness and pain after “sleeping wrong”, poor posture at the computer, excessive lifting, or trauma.

Craniosacral therapy is very useful in the treatment of headache and migraine.  Craniosacral therapy can be used to treat muscle tension in the neck, face, and jaw as well as release any fascial restrictions within the skull.  The fascia is the very thin membrane that envelopes the muscles, organs, and even the brain.  The fascia inside the skull actually moves back and forth about ½ inch with each step we take. Many theories about migraine pain involve the constriction and dilation of the cranial blood vessels.  Imagine if the fascia surrounding the brain was tight as blood vessels attempted to expand and contract.  This could be painful.  Many patients with chronic pain enjoy Craniosacral therapy as it is very gentle using a force of 5 grams or the weight of a nickel.

For you chronic suffers, please don’t be afraid to try PT.  It really works!!

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and can be reached for questions at 290-5575.  She is also a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council. 

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