Migraine, Tension Headache and Stress

October 24, 2009 by dean · Leave a Comment 

Managing stress helps headache and migraine

Managing stress helps headache and migraine

Why is it that when stress and migraine and tension headache are discussed studies all sorts of unproven mechanisms are discussed at length – despite all of the research and billions of dollars there is no proven causal mechanism – ‘it may be this …. or ‘it may be that‘ etc.

Muscle tension is evident in the necks of ‘tension headache‘ sufferers and migraineurs – it is tensed, shortened musculature acting on joint stiffness which leads to head pain.1

Research has shown that stress management approaches, including Relaxation Therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy consistently improve migraine 2 – if you are less stressed then stiff spinal segments sit quietly without any significant movement expected of them. Biofeedback is also helpful in managing migraine 2 for the same reason.

It can be very difficult to manage stress in our lives (for a whole lot of reasons including heart disease, depression, and other mental health disorders) and whilst is is important to take measures to do this, from a headache and migraine point of view, identifying and eliminating relevant neck disorders is crucial.



(1. Bakal DA, Kaganov JA. Muscle Contraction and Migraine Headache: Psychophysiologic Comparison. Headache 1977;17(5):208215

2. Rains JC, Penzien DB, McCrory DC, Gray RN. Behavioral headache treatment: History, review of the empirical literature, and methodological critique. Headache. 2005;45(Suppl. 2): S92-S109.)

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About dean
Consultant Headache & Migraine Physiotherapist; International Teacher; Director, The Headache Clinic & Watson Headache Institute; PhD Candidate Murdoch University, Western Australia; Adjunct Lecturer, Masters Program, Physiotherapy School, University of South Australia; MAppSc(Res) GradDipAdvManipTher Experienced health practitioners trained in the Watson Headache Approach perform the examination and treatment techniques developed by Dean Watson. These techniques are based on his extensive experience of 7000 headache patients (21,000 hours) over 21 years and are now taught internationally. For your nearest practitioner who has completed training in the ‘Watson Headache Approach’ please refer to the ‘Practitioner Directory’.

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