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Can a Physical Therapist Treat My Headaches?

Vestibular photo.JPGby Joe Ascher, PT, DPT

Can a physical therapist help with your headache?  In many cases, yes! While headaches fall into several different types or categories, the most common headache is a tension type headache.  Tension type headaches affect about 1.4 billion people or about 20.8% of the population.1 Within this category of tension type headaches, subcategories include infrequent episodic, frequent episodic, chronic, and probable tension type headaches, each with their own unique qualities. However, generally speaking, tension type headaches are felt on both sides of the head, feel like a pressing or tightening, are mild to moderate in intensity, and are not aggravated by routine physical activity. These headaches are also not associated with nausea or vomiting and do not have sound or light sensitivities.

The source of tension type headaches has typically been associated with tension in the musculature around the neck, upper shoulders, jaw, and head. Recent research implicates the nervous system as an additional culprit in tension type headaches, but the certainty of its role is still under debate.

The frequency of tension type headaches can be significantly reduced with the application of manual therapy by a specialized physical therapist who uses hands-on techniques to manipulate tissue, as well as provides prescriptive therapeutic exercise, stretching, and postural exercises.  Recent evidence demonstrates that retraining certain neck muscles can reduce your headache frequency by at least 50% in 8 weeks while also improving your posture and range of motion.2

For more information on headaches, what you can do about them, and how your physical therapist can help please join us for one of two upcoming Headache Workshops.

Headache Workshop
Wednesday, May 24th

Loop Office, 25 E. Washington Street, Suite 1310, 12 pm – 1 pm
Lakeview Office, 2869 N Lincoln Avenue, 6-7 pm

Dr. Susan Hardin Rocchini, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC and Dr. Joe Ascher, PT, DPT will discuss strategies for prevention and self-care from debilitating headaches along with discussing proper desk set-up and posture for daily activities in order to reduce headache frequency.

RSVP by calling (773) 665-9950 or email  The first 10 registrants for each workshop will receive a $10 gift card for use in our retail shop!

  1. “Tension Headache.” Background, Pathophysiology, Etiology. N.p., 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.
  2. Castien, R., A. Blankenstein, D. Van, M. W. Heymans, and J. Dekker. “The Working Mechanism of Manual Therapy in Participants with Chronic Tension-type Headache.” The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2013. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.