Can Physical Therapy Help with Migraines?

Jul 6, 2022

Therapy Help with MigrainesIf you have ever experienced a migraine attack before, you understand that migraines are more than just a “really bad headache.” In fact, a migraine is a neurological condition with a wide range of symptoms, including debilitating headaches. People who develop migraines tend to experience them more than once and might have a history of migraines in their families. People of all ages can get migraines, though they are more common in women. Migraines can start to impact your quality of life by keeping you from going about your day and participating in activities you enjoy. You might want to know more about your options for treating migraines. If you are looking for a non-invasive treatment option, you may want to consider physical therapy for migraines. A physical therapist can provide you with a number of techniques to help you better manage migraine symptoms and prevent future episodes. Here’s everything you need to know about physical therapy for migraines.

What a Migraine Feels Like

The first time you get a migraine, you might not even realize what is happening. A migraine attack can be incredibly disorienting because of the range of possible symptoms. Along with the hallmark debilitating headache, you might also experience nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound. The pain from a migraine headache can feel like a pulsing or throbbing inside your head and may only occur along your forehead, or the pounding pain might occur all around your head. Pain from a migraine may start out mild and build into a more severe dull, steady ache. The average migraine attack can last for around 4 hours, though the symptoms can start to appear in the days before the attack, known as the prodrome stage.

During the prodrome stage, you might develop signs and symptoms of a migraine attack like food cravings, irritability, fatigue, or low energy. Some people also notice an increase in hyperactivity or depression in the days leading up to a migraine attack. You may experience a migraine with aura, which refers to a migraine attack that can impact your speech, vision, sensation, and movement. You might have difficulty speaking clearly, notice bright spots or shapes in your vision, or even feel a tingling sensation in your extremities. Once the migraine attack phase begins, symptoms can include dizziness, feeling faint, and headache pain. Sometimes after a migraine attack, known as the postdrome phase, you might experience sudden changes in your mood or feelings.

Causes & Triggers of a Migraine

There isn’t one specific cause of migraine attacks, though the condition does appear to have connections to abnormal brain activity, nerve signaling, and issues with hormones and blood vessels in the brain. People who experience frequent migraines will also start to notice a pattern of situations or other issues that might trigger a migraine attack.

Chemical Imbalances

Chemical imbalances in the brain, like a fluctuation in hormones, could trigger a migraine attack. Women experience hormone fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone during their menstruation cycle or with pregnancy or menopause. Certain medications can also lead to chemical imbalances that may trigger a migraine.

Bright Lights & Loud Sounds

Bright lights and loud sounds are common triggers that can affect people who get migraines. As your brain processes information from your eyes and ears, a miscommunication or missed connection between your nerves can lead to a migraine.

Extreme Weather

A really hot day could make you more susceptible to getting a migraine. Similarly, severe fluctuations in weather, like going from a bright and sunny day to a humid, stormy one, could impact you as the barometric pressure changes outside.


Your body needs enough water and nutrients to function properly. When you don’t get enough water to drink throughout the day, you can become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include headaches, nausea, and dizziness, which are similar symptoms to a migraine. However, people who get migraines can be at increased risk for an attack if they become dehydrated.

Increased Stress

An increase in stress in your daily life can also impact you physically. When you are stressed out mentally, it takes a toll on your body and can cause your muscles to tense up and nerves to misfire. Increased stress from a recent event or changes in your typical routines can trigger a migraine.

Intense Physical Activity

If you work out too hard, you might end up pushing your body to the limits. Intense physical activity can trigger a migraine attack, especially if you do not stay hydrated and give your body enough time to rest in between activities.

Sleep Pattern Changes

Not getting enough sleep each night can lead to more than just a bad mood the next day. Changes in your sleep patterns can also increase your chances of physical symptoms like a migraine. You can also trigger a migraine if you get too much sleep, like sleeping in on the weekends or while on vacation.

Smoking & Alcohol Use

Alcohol and nicotine can impact the health of your heart and lungs. When you smoke, your blood vessels constrict, and if this occurs in your brain, it can lead to altered brain activity. Drinking alcohol can also make you more prone to dehydration.

6 Ways Physical Therapy Can Help with Migraines

Ways Physical Therapy Can Help with MigrainesA migraine attack can impact your whole body, including your brain, central nervous system, peripheral nerves, and musculoskeletal system. That’s why the symptoms of a migraine range from neurological to pain and discomfort. Physical therapy targets your muscles and joints, which can have a positive impact on your brain and spinal cord, too. Here are six ways going to physical therapy can help you with migraines.

Ice & Heat

Applying a cold compress to your head and neck can provide a temporary numbing sensation that helps with the pain from a migraine headache and other symptoms. Ice also helps reduce swelling and inflammation naturally. A warm compress or heating pad will help relax any tight muscles and also improve circulation in the area. Before you engage in certain stretches or other activities, applying heat to your neck can help loosen your muscles up.

Soft Tissue Mobilization

Your physical therapist may use soft tissue mobilization to break up tense, stiff muscle tissue and help you relax. Fluids can become trapped in your muscles and lead to pain and inflammation. Soft tissue mobilization incorporates stretches and deep pressure as a manual therapy to reduce pain and other symptoms. This technique can also help restore normal functioning to the area.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help reduce stress and tension in your body with a hands-on approach to managing your pain and other symptoms. Your physical therapist may target certain areas or muscle groups that will ease your symptoms and discomfort. Massage therapy has also been known to decrease nerve irritation, especially when your migraine headaches get triggered because of stiff, tight muscles.

Postural Correction

Your posture may also contribute to the frequency of migraines or the intensity of your symptoms. If you regularly engage in poor posture, this can put additional stress and strain on your spine. Poor posture can lead to misalignments that disrupt healthy communication from your brain to nerves in your spine and the rest of your body. Correcting your posture can help you experience healthy functioning in multiple areas of your life, including improved sleep patterns and stronger muscles.

Vestibular Therapy

Physical therapists practice a specialized treatment technique known as vestibular therapy. If your migraine symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, or otherwise leave you feeling off balance, then vestibular therapy may help. This therapeutic option utilizes exercises to improve your gaze stabilization, spatial orientation, and sense of balance. Vestibular therapy can help reduce the effects of a migraine if you experience increased sensitivity to motion.

Stretches & Exercises

Physical therapy also incorporates stretches and exercises designed to improve your overall strength and mobility. When you work with a physical therapist to help with migraines, they will identify areas where you can improve your strength and stability to help your body better withstand symptoms. Your physical therapist may walk you through certain stretches and exercises you can practice at home if and when a migraine occurs again. In fact, you may find that a specific stretch or exercise helps ease your symptoms during a migraine, while others help you prevent migraine attacks in the future.

physical therapy for migraines todayVisit AICA Orthopedics in Conyers to get started on physical therapy for migraines today. Our physical therapists work alongside neurologists, orthopedic doctors, and chiropractors to provide you with comprehensive treatment and care. You will receive a thorough examination, diagnosis, and treatment plan that addresses your specific symptoms and needs. You can start noticing differences after a few days of targeted physical therapy at AICA Orthopedics in Conyers. Our on-site physical therapy services cover a wide range of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, including migraine headaches. Contact us to learn more and schedule your initial consultation at AICA Orthopedics in Conyers today.


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