/ Headaches and migraine explained

Headaches and migraine explained

Chronic headaches and migraine are complex conditions, which may be triggered by many factors, including diet, hormones, sleep, nutritional deficiencies, neck pain, jaw pain, mental health and exercise.

Migraine vs headache

Migraine is not just a bad headache

Migraine is not just a headache. Over 5 million Australians live with migraine, affecting 1 in 10 men and 1 in 3 women. Working-age women are the most significantly affected, with up to 45% of women aged between 25 and 45 experiencing migraine attacks. A migraine attack can last for days, weeks or even months. There are many types of migraine with a range of presentations.

Common types of headache and migraine seen by osteopaths

  • Tension-type headache
  • Chronic daily headache
  • Migraine with aura
  • Migraine without aura
Older woman holding her head in pain

Clinical consultation with an osteopath

During an initial consultation, your osteopath will take a thorough case history to find out more about:

  • The frequency, intensity and duration of your headache or migraine
  • The location of the pain and how long have you have been experiencing headaches or migraine
  • Any medications that you take for your headaches or migraine attacks, as well as any other medications you may be taking
  • If you have any known triggers for your headaches or migraine attacks
  • General lifestyle questions to work out other potential triggers

Areas of the body osteopaths treat to help headaches and migraine

  • The neck
  • The jaw
  • The shoulders
  • Upper back/thoracic spine
  • Ribs
Shoulder pain

Osteopathic approach

Osteopaths may use a variety of techniques to help manage headaches and/or migraine. These may include but are not limited to:

  • Soft tissue techniques
  • Muscle energy techniques
  • Mobilisation of joints
  • High-velocity low amplitude (HVLA) therapy (joint cracking)
  • Indirect techniques (e.g. counterstrain)
  • Rehabilitation exercises

Aims of osteopathic management

  • Improve your general mobility
  • Improve the mobility of your ribs and thoracic and cervical spine
  • Reduce muscular tension, nerve compression and inflammation
  • Advise on posture, exercise and stretching to help prevent a recurrence of symptoms
  • Offer guidance on diet and preventing dehydration
  • Advise on improving the ergonomics of your home or workplace
Woman at work with headache

Expected outcomes

Patient results do vary, depending on how long you have been experiencing symptoms. Some people may progress quicker or slower than average. However, generally, you would expect to see some changes/improvement over the course of a three-month period for a chronic condition, following regular weekly treatments.

During this time, you would expect that your symptoms would be gradually improving in terms of intensity, frequency, duration and response to medication.

Chronic versus acute headaches or migraine

Acute headaches and/or migraine attacks occur due to specific, often identifiable things that do not occur frequently.

Chronic headaches and migraine attacks occur more frequently and may have no identifiable triggers or, alternatively, have lots of triggers that can set off attacks.

Acute headaches and migraines often settle down easily and require less treatment. Meanwhile, chronic headaches and migraine often require a longer treatment plan and more in-depth treatment due to the sensitised system requiring more time to adjust and settle.

Headache and migraine triggers

Potential triggers for migraine

Think about the factors that may trigger your migraine and discuss these with your osteo. Some common triggers of migraine may be:

  • Diet. For example, cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits, alcohol (especially red wine)
  • Either too little or too much sleep
  • Hormones such as oestrogen. For example, changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle
  • Physiochemical causes such as too much heat, light, noise or certain chemicals
  • Emotional causes, such as stress, excitement or fatigue
  • Relaxation (weekend migraine). This is often triggered by a period of stress and overwork followed by relaxation

What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy involves clinical care of the neuro-musculoskeletal system, which is made up of the bones, muscles, nerves and other tissues that support your body and control its movements.

Learn more

Body Map

Osteopaths treat more than bones. Tell us where it hurts and find out how osteos may be able to help you so you can get on and do the things you love.

Visit Body Map