Physiotherapy for headaches

Written by Carol Hopkins

There are a couple of different classifications of headaches. This blog hopes outline each type and how physiotherapy may be able to help you. It is very important to see your GP if you regularly suffer from headaches, if this is your first headache, or if this is your worst headache yet.

Tension Type Headaches (TTH)

This type of headache can be either episodic which means you have less than 15 days a month or they can be chronic meaning you experience more than 15 days a month. These headaches can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 days. People often describe them as a bilateral pressing or tightening head pain with no significant associated symptoms. Along with this people often have tenderness in their neck and shoulders.

Cervicogenic Headaches

This type of headache is often secondary pain felt in the head from a source in the neck. This pain is often felt on one side of the head. There is often no pattern of frequency, severity, duration or any associated features. There may also be a history of neck trauma or poor posture.


This type of head pain is different as it is a disorder of the central nervous system resulting in pain & neurological symptoms. There can be a genetic predisposition to migraine. Attacks normally last 4-72 hours. This pain is also often felt on one side of the head and described as a pulsating, moderate to severe pain. Sufferers can also experience associated symptoms such as, nausea or photophobia.

Physiotherapists commonly see TTH and cervicogenic headaches. There are 20 muscles that refer pain to the head. Your physiotherapist will use techniques such as soft tissue and trigger point release, dry needling, exercise rehabilitation and massage along with others to treat the headaches.

If you are experiencing any of the above please contact us on 01-4913228 for an appointment with one of our Chartered Physiotherapists. If you would like more information on types of headaches and the treatments available you can also contact Migraine Association of Ireland.

lady with neck pain
woman with headache

Physio for Headaches

Dry needling and headaches

Headaches are the most common pain complaint in the world with 90% of people experiencing them at some stage in life. There are many different types of headache and if this is your first or worst headache you’ll need to visit your GP first to clear you for physiotherapy treatment.

Dry needling can be helpful for headaches which arise from trigger points in the muscles in the neck. Myofascial trigger points can occur when muscles are overworked or stressed.

Trigger points in neck muscles are common in those who have desk jobs, who spend a lot of time typing or using the mouse. Often new mums or those with young children who are repeatedly bending or lifting will also have problems with these muscles. Your physiotherapist will carry out a detailed assessment. This will include taking a thorough history of your condition and assessing the movement and strength of your neck and your posture. If trigger points are found to be contributing to your headaches then dry needling of relevant muscles such as trapezius, levator scapula and masseter will be recommended. Your physiotherapist will also address stiffness in your neck joints and your posture.

Dry needling along with other physiotherapy techniques can be used both to treat and to prevent headaches.

Treatment of headaches at work
woman with headache
Therapist applying dry needling technique