Monday, September 10, 2012

Physical Therapy for Migraines

The Migraine Action and Headache Clinics of the UK recently conducted a survey which showed that although around half of headache (HA) sufferers were referred to a headache specialist or neurologist by their primary physician less that 15% were offered any sort of physical therapy services.  Of those with migraines surveyed, 88% said they would prefer physical therapy to other treatment methods but it was never offered by their primary physician.

“Migraine headaches remain a condition which is under diagnosed, under-treated and the impact on quality of life is under estimated.  With no cure, it is a condition which many have to manage for a number of year (over 60% of those surveyed had lived with the condition for 20 years or more.)”

There is a vast amount of research and studies that have shown that evidence based physical therapy for migraine and other headaches is as good as common migraine medications, but with the advantages of fewer side effects.  One example stands out.  In 2000, a randomized controlled trial of spinal manipulation therapy for migraines showed “22% of participants receiving treatment reported more than a 90% reduction in migraines after two months of treatment, with a further 50% reporting a significant improvement in the morbidity of each episode.”

The take home message should be that a hands on approach from a physical therapist can often be as successful as common prescribed medications with much fewer side effects.  The issue is that primary care physicians rarely offer or suggest the use of physical therapy in the treatment plan.  It may have to be up to the patient to take control of their care and discuss the role of physical therapy with their primary care physician.


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