Physical and Recreational Therapy

Turning Free Time into Treatment

At the Diamond Headache Clinic, our physical and recreational therapists teach patients a variety of techniques to improve their physical, cognitive, emotional and social well-being. We work with you and your family members to identify and then implement exercise, hobbies, community involvement and daily living behaviors that have positive impacts on your headache condition. The goals are to rehabilitate, restore and improve function and independence, as well as to reduce or eliminate the effects of the condition.

Woman getting physical therapy for a headache or migraine

Physical Therapy for Migraine and Headache

Physical therapy (PT) should be carried out by a professionally trained physical therapist under the referral of your doctor. PT can reduce headache pain and restore function and movement. The two types of physical therapy are passive and active. Passive therapies include massage, heat/ice packs, steroid creams, ultrasound and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units that utilize low-voltage electrical current for relief. Active physical therapies are stretching, range-of-motion and pain-relief exercises; strengthening exercises; and low-impact aerobic conditioning.

Some physical therapy techniques can help reduce pain, at least temporarily, especially if used at the onset of the attack. Patients should be educated about ice application and relaxation for pain relief. Family members may be able to assist with massages or manual cervical (neck) traction.

Each headache patient presents with different symptoms and causes; thus, patients respond differently to physical therapy. Because physical therapy works on muscles and joints, PT is most effective in migraineurs whose headache condition involves the neck and/or jaw. Not only does PT reduce pain for these patients, but it also may prevent their attacks. How does this work? In some headache patients with musculoskeletal problems, the muscles and joints of the neck “refer” pain into the head, while in other patients, neck joint or jaw problems can trigger a migraine event. Treating neck and jaw (musculoskeletal) issues with physical therapy reduces stress and tension on soft tissues and joints, which reduces the individual’s headache pain.

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Your Treatment Plan

Because physical and recreational therapies are designed to help you restore and maintain optimum functionality throughout life, they are a perfect complement to the Diamond Headache Clinic individualized treatment plan. Each patient’s treatment is based on a variety of factors that surpass simple diagnosis of the headache condition. Every part of the plan — including physical and recreational therapy — is balanced and adjustable based on age, life stage, past injury and other possible environmental factors. Our physicians develop this comprehensive understanding by examining your complete medical history, performing thorough evaluations and diagnostics, and most importantly, carefully listening to you.

If your physician recommends an inpatient admission, rest assured that the Diamond Headache Inpatient Unit at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital is fully equipped with exercise machines and recreational therapy areas where you will receive group and individual training as part of your daily therapeutic program.

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