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Headache pain is experienced by almost everyone at some time. While most experience limited and only occasional pain, others experience headaches of great intensity and frequency. In many cases, chronic, severe headache pain leads to significant functional compromise and a deterioration of the quality of life.
We recognize that not all headaches can be effectively addressed by physical therapy. However, headaches related to musculoskeletal dysfunction can. The first step is a complete evaluation. The evaluation is detailed and highly specific. The evaluation focuses on muscular and other soft tissue imbalances, spinal joint alignment and mobility, posture, strength, flexibility, functional positions and work habits. The intent of the evaluation is to:
- Determine if musculoskeletal dysfunction exists.
- Determine if the musculoskeletal dysfunction is of the type that creates or contributes to headache pain.
If musculoskeletal dysfunction is revealed, and is of the type that commonly contributes to headache, a treatment program is initiated. If no contributing dysfunction is detected, the patient is referred back to his or her physician. As is customary, an evaluation summary and plan will be forwarded to the referring physician detailing the results of the evaluation.
Treatment programs are customized to address each patient's unique musculoskeletal faults. In general, however, treatment can include any of the following:
- A variety of manual therapy techniques to restore proper joint mobility and alignment.
- Manual therapy to facilitate the restoration of soft-tissue mobility, weakness and flexibility and to reduce spasm, if present.
- Therapeutic exercise to address joint and soft-tissue mobility, weakness and posture.
- Instruction in the use of safe body mechanics and joint protection strategies.
- The use of modalities to encourage tissue healing and/or the suppression of pain.
- Instruction in self-management measures. Programs may include stretching, posture revision, management of "trigger points" and related techniques.
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