top of page
  • Writer's pictureSam Kelokates

Manual Therapy for Migraine

Migraine is a disabling neurological condition that affects millions of people in the US. They are characterized by severe, throbbing headache with nausea or vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Occasionally visual, motor, and vestibular disturbances may occur.

Migraine can significantly impact a person's daily life, making it challenging to carry out regular activities and causing a decrease in overall quality of life.

In the search for effective treatments, manual therapy has been emerging as a promising option for individuals suffering this condition.

What is Manual Therapy

Manual therapy refers to a hands-on techniques that involves the skilled treatment of soft tissues and joints by physical therapists. Manual techniques include massage, mobilization, manipulation, muscle energy technique, and stretching exercises.

This type of therapy targets the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, aiming to improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance overall well-being.

Manual therapy has been used for centuries to alleviate pain and improve function. Reduction in pain, decreased stress and improved relaxation, improved soft tissue mobility, and increased joint mobility are just a few advantages of manual therapy.

The goal of manual therapy in the context of migraine and other headache disorders is to address any musculoskeletal deficits or dysfunctions that may be contributing to the onset or exacerbation of migraine symptoms.

Therapists who specialize in manual therapy techniques for migraine and other headache disorders carefully assess the individual's condition and tailor the treatment plan to their specific needs.

The therapy sessions typically involve targeted techniques focusing on areas such as the neck, shoulders, head, and jaw. Manual therapy can help in reducing intensity, frequency, and duration of migraine attacks.

Manual Therapy as a Beneficial Treatment Option for Migraine

Manual therapy has shown promising results in providing relief from migraine and reducing the frequency of attacks.

Research studies have indicated that manual therapy techniques, when applied correctly and consistently. Studies have shown reductions in pain and disability, improved cervical range of motion, decreased severity and duration of migraine attacks.

Furthermore, manual therapy may also contribute to an overall improvement in the individual's well-being by reducing stress levels and improved physical functioning.

Another advantage of manual therapy techniques as a non-pharmacological treatment option for migraine is its non-invasive nature.

Unlike medications that may have potential side effects, manual therapy poses minimal risks, has minimal side effects, and can be a valuable alternative or complementary approach for those seeking natural migraine relief.

Benefits of Manual Therapy for Migraine

Manual therapy offers several benefits for individuals with migraine, working to alleviate symptoms and improve overall well-being. Here are some key advantages:

Reduces Muscle Tension and Trigger Points:

Migraine is often associated with muscle tension and trigger points. Common trigger point areas are the neck, shoulders, and head. Manual therapy techniques like massage and myofascial release can effectively target these areas, releasing tension and reducing the occurrence of trigger points.

Improved Range of Motion and Flexibility:

Those with migraine and other headache conditions often find restrictions of movement and limit mobility due to pain and stiffness in the neck. Through joint mobilization techniques, manual therapy can improve range of motion in the affected areas of the neck to restore normal mobility and reduce stiffness.

Pain and Discomfort Associated with the Neck:

The neck is a common source of pain for those with migraine. It is thought to be a common trigger for attacks. Manual therapy techniques specifically designed for the neck, such as soft tissue mobilization and massage, can help relieve pain and discomfort in this area.

Pain Modulation:

Manual therapy can target underlying factors that contribute to migraine such as central sensitization by effecting nociceptive pathways. Manual pressure techniques have shown the ability to reduce pain by changing pain pathways in the central nervous system.

Types of Manual Therapy for Migraine

There are several types of manual therapy that can be beneficial for individuals with migraine. Here are some commonly used methods:


Massage involves the manual manipulation of muscle, targeting areas of tension and promoting relaxation. Different massage techniques, such as deep tissue massage, may be employed to address specific needs and preferences of the patient.

In one review it was found that massage therapy was a strong non-pharmacologic treatment for migraine. The author found that massage provided reduction in migraine intensity, duration, somatic symptoms, and improved sleep efficiency.

Joint Mobilization & Manipulation:

These techniques focus on joints of the vertebrae, sometimes the jaw, to improve their mobility and reduce restrictions. Manual therapists use these techniques to reduce joint stiffness and restore normal mobility.

Myofascial Release:

Soft tissue mobilization techniques aim to release tension and restore proper movement in muscles and fascia. This can be achieved through various methods, such as stretching, deep pressure, and myofascial release techniques.

Some of these techniques can be taught to the individual to perform on themselves at home.

Trigger Point Therapy:

Trigger points are hypersensitive areas within muscles that can cause referred pain, often associated with migraines. Trigger point therapy involves applying pressure to these points to release tension and decreasing pain.

According to one study trigger point therapy improved multiple headache parameters. Resulting in a decrease in medication consumption, decreased disability, and increased pain pressure thresholds of neck muscles.

With all types of manual therapy it’s important to monitor any changes in symptoms, pain levels, and frequency of migraine. This information will help the therapist adjust the treatment plan accordingly for optimal results.


Manual therapy offers a range of benefits for individuals with migraine by reducing attack frequency.

By addressing muscle tension, range of motion deficits, stiffness, and pain, manual therapy has the potential to not only decrease symptoms but also prevent the onset or reduce the frequency of attacks.

As with any treatment option, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals and find a qualified manual therapist to ensure safe and effective care.

Incorporating manual therapy into a comprehensive migraine management plan, along with other lifestyle modifications and treatments, may lead to improved overall well-being and a better quality of life for individuals living with migraines.

If you're seeking relief from migraine and want to explore the benefits of manual therapy, I invite you to schedule a consultation.

Kelos Physical Therapy is a practice specialized in providing personalized care for individuals with migraine and other headache disorders. I use effective manual therapy techniques tailored to your unique needs.

Take the first step towards finding relief and improving your quality of life by scheduling a consultation with us today. Don't let migraines hold you back any longer – reach out today and start your journey towards a pain-free future.

17 views0 comments


bottom of page