Welcome Headache and Migraine Sufferers

June 9, 2009 by dean · Leave a Comment 

In 1991 I embarked on a path that was to become the greatest challenge of my life, establishing The Headache Clinic, www.headacheclinic.com.au, in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1991.   The fundamental purpose of The Headache Clinic was and is determining whether or not a neck (cervicogenic) disorder is the cause of or a significant contributing factor to headache or migraine.

We are the sum of our experiences — and my unparalleled clinical experience (having consulted over 7000 headache and migraine patients – in excess of 28000 treatments – with a range of diagnoses) suggests that neck (cervicogenic) dysfunction is significantly underestimated and can be the cause of various forms of headache and migraine. I believe therefore, that, in the presence of negative medical tests, the necks of all (primary) headache and migraine sufferers should be examined, irrespective of the diagnosis. Whilst this challenges traditionally held medical beliefs, it is incumbent to not only pass on this experience to my colleagues and headache and migraine sufferers, but to support this experience with rigorous scientific research (I am currently a PhD Candidate investigating the role of cervicogenic dysfunction in the mechanism of migraine at Murdoch University, Western Australia).

It is irresponsible to treat irrelevant cervicogenic (neck) dysfunction in migraine and headache conditions.  However given that the causes of migraine and tension headache are not clear, the advances in our knowledge of pain mechanisms and the not insignificant body research supporting cervicogenic factors as key players in the headache and migraine processes, it is also irresponsible not to examine the necks of headache sufferers irrespective of the diagnosis. How much longer do we accept the notion that ‘whilst we do not know what causes migraine it can’t come from the neck’?

Over the past 15 years I have developed a series of techniques, which, by way of temporary reproduction of headache and easing of the headache as a technique is sustained, confirm that a neck disorder is the cause of or a significant factor in the mechanism of the headache or migraine – this a key diagnostic criterion for cervicogenic or neck involvement in headache according to the International Headache Society – importantly for the disorder to be related to the headache or migraine process the headache has to ease as the technique is maintained. If both reproduction and lessening are not possible then the neck may not be the source of the headache or migraine. Furthermore my experience has shown that if the techniques are performed in a specific manner it is possible to determine which spinal segment is the cause of or contributing significantly to headache and migraine. Having determined which spinal segment (or segments — there may be more than one) is involved then this significantly increases the chance of the treatment being successful because treatment can be directed at specific, relevant spinal segments.

The application of these techniques in Europe, United Kingdom and Australia has become known as the ‘Watson Headache Approach’ and forms the basis of courses I present for physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Spain — refer  www.headacheeducation.com and www.headacheandmigraine.com for International Practioner Directory.

The Watson Headache Institute was established to increase the awareness of cervicogenic (neck) disorders in headache and migraine by:

imparting my (and that of others) clinical experience and knowledge


undertaking and supporting rigorous clinical and scientific research in this specialty.

Dean Watson

Consultant Headache and Migraine Physiotherapist; Adjunct Lecturer, Masters Program, School of Physiotherapy, University of South Australia; PhD Candidate, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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