In my experience most people who suffer from a lot of headaches also have a neck problem. I did an analysis of 150 patients who have come to me for treatment for their headaches (70 had migraines, 80 had chronic headaches) and overall 94% of them had a distinct upper neck dysfunction i.e. twists and strains in the upper neck vertebrae and muscles. Most suffered from neck pain or stiffness as well as their headache. I found that the majority of these people got benefit from my osteopathic treatment which in particular is aimed at helping to loosen the tight muscles and joints in the neck. This, in turn, helps to take the pressure off the nerves that go into the head and so lessen the headaches. A lot of headaches are actually referred pain from the neck.
How many treatments are needed?
This depends how set in it is. Mrs H. had suffered with constant headaches for a year. She improved after 4 treatments but continued to have monthly treatments for a while until she was sure they were gone. Others take longer like Mr A. Who had been having migraine attacks 2 or 3 times a month for seven years. He was a lot better after having 6 treatments over a period of four months but came back every now and then if symptoms flared up.
For some people who have had migraine for much of their life since childhood or teenage years, the more realistic goal is to help alleviate the symptoms and lessen the attacks rather than expect a total cure in the short term. I have several patients of this type, some whom have suffered from migraine for forty-plus years, and who have monthly maintenance treatments.
What sort of treatment?
First by careful palpation, I assess the back, shoulders and neck particularly noting where there are tight muscles or joints and misaligned vertebrae. A lot of my treatment is deep-focused massage, stretches and mobilizations aimed especially at the tight areas. Sometimes a quick thrust is given to release or correct misaligned vertebrae. A satisfying and relieving click is heard as the joint releases. I will advise on exercises and discuss the patient’s condition to see if there are any lifestyle changes which would help.
I am on the medical advisory board of Migraine Action who awarded me with ‘Best in Complementary Award’ in 2008. If you are a chronic migraine sufferer it is worth joining Migraine Action, 4th Floor, 27 East Street, Leicester, LE1 6NB., telephone 0116 275 8317 or visit the website www.migraine.org.uk for support and help.
- If you are unsure about whether you want to commit to a course of osteopathic treatment you are welcome to come along for a 15 minute free assessment.