Migraines can occur at any moment, but veterans of migraines can usually tell when they’re about to strike: a day or two before, they’ll experience shifts in mood and behavior, food cravings, neck stiffness, and other symptoms. Closer to the event, their heads may tingle, or they’ll experience flashes of light, numbness or weakness, hear noises, or have difficulty speaking. When the migraine finally occurs, it can be so painful that it’s debilitating.
While there are migraine medications that can help, they can often knock someone out for the rest of the day. Migraine patients often search for alternative ways to treat their migraines.
The good news is it’s totally possible to treat migraines without relying on pain pills. A physical therapist who’s trained in managing migraines and headaches can usually relieve or minimize the pain within one session, and develop a course of treatment to keep them at bay.
Where and how migraines originate from requires some detective work by the physical therapist. It may be the result of a car accident or a concussion. Sometimes it’s associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle, or due to increased job stress. The therapist needs to determine whether the migraine has a vascular component, and if so, there’s not much more the therapist can do because it involves the brain. If it’s not vascular, then there are ways to treat it manually.
At the first appointment, the therapist will try to reproduce the headache musculoskeletally by probing the neck, jaw, shoulder, and other areas. She will ask about what usually brings on the headaches, and ways the patient currently manages stress, whether through meditation, breathing, exercise, or some other way of relaxing.
Lastly, she’ll find out about the patient’s nutrition and hydration. Using food as the medicine can be a useful tool to mitigating migraines. An anti-inflammatory diet, such as that suggested by the anti-inflammatory food pyramid, includes high amounts of fruits and vegetables and low amounts of processed foods and sugar. In addition, reducing caffeine and increasing water are some other methods to properly nourish the blood and organs, which in turn can reduce the pain from a migraine, if not the migraine itself.
While migraines can be treated within one session with a physical therapist, some patients return regularly for routine maintenance, to help prevent a migraine from starting up. If you suffer from migraines, it’s a good idea to call your doctor for help to prevent or lessen the experience.