Find below answers to some frequently asked questions.
I don’t get neck pain so can your treatment help me?
30% of people treated successfully in our clinic did not report any neck symptoms initially, and a further 30% only reported a mild tightness or tension under the base of the skull.
In the same way that people with flat feet don’t usually have sore feet, but the stress it creates causes ankle, knee, hip and potentially back problems. The issue we treat stresses the neck but the neck itself often isn’t obviously sore – the irritation this creates by way of increased muscle spasm, stretch response, changes in joint pressure and position all generate nerve impulses which get sent back to the brainstem. Neck pain is just one of many signals that can cause overstimulation in the brainstem
I have had lots of treatment on my neck before and it hasn’t helped. Why is your treatment any different?
Any therapist that has treated your neck will have no doubt felt and commented on how tight the top part of your neck feels, where the neck joins the skull. The classic muscle spasm we treat occurs up under the base of the skull and stresses the top 3 joints on either side of the neck. Having used standard techniques for years I know that the next step is then to stretch the joints and release the muscle spasm, and often people would get relief.
Then it comes back. So you stretch it again……and again……..and again……..sound familiar?
The key difference with the Watson Headache ® Approach is that rather than just stretch the muscle and joints and hope it will last, we are able to identify the reason causing the muscle to spasm in the first place. By directing treatment at this cause, rather than just treat the spasm, your therapist will be able to ‘switch off’ the muscle spasm, without actually touching the muscle, with application of pressure on the next segment down. It is a fine skill to master but by accessing clinicians who solely focus on using these headache specific techniques you can be confident that you are not only getting techniques supported by the latest research, and targeting the underlying cause, but applied by the best therapists in the field.
I know I get real migraines because I get aura so it can’t be my neck can it?
Aura is your brains way of ‘resetting’ or ‘rebooting’. It is caused by a wave of depressed blood flow which in turn causes loss of nerve conduction known as cortical spreading depression.
This starts in the occipital lobe (visual cortex) and so most commonly vision is affected, however this can be highly variable. Underpinning the aura though is a constant overstimulation of the trigeminal nerves in the brainstem – present before, during and after an episode.
This is the underlying problem that pushes the system to the edge, and the nerves from the top of the neck are the most common cause of overstimulation.
Aura is then your brains reaction to when this overactivity reaches a critical point and about to give you a migraine. It’s your brains (often failed) attempt to short circuit or prevent the migraine by shutting down the system.
Unfortunately when the system comes back on line, usually after 30 minutes or so, the outflow of activity from the brainstem is too much and the pain of migraine kicks in.
I’ve read that manipulation of the spine is not supported in treatment of migraine. Does that mean the science doesn’t support your treatment?
Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not manipulate the spine.
Manipulation as described by the science is very specific to a technique that most people would associate with chiropractors – a cracking of the joints in the spine.
Some physiotherapists and Osteopaths use these techniques as well, but it involves high velocity, short amplitude thrust techniques. These typically provide short-term relief. However they are so focused on stretching the stiff joints they fail to understand the underlying reason for the stiffness.
That is exactly what we do – identify and treat the underlying reason for the stiffness, which is why the techniques we use are the only hands on techniques to decrease the overstimulation of the trigeminal nerve in the brainstem – the heart of the headache centre.
Your treatment sounds like trigger point or acupressure. Is it the same?
Trigger point and acupressure both work by treating pre-determined points on the body, either working on points where the nerve enters a muscle or points called meridians based on Chinese medicine philosophy. Our techniques do not have pre-determined points. Everyone is slightly different. Your therapist is highly skilled at assessing exactly which point, which angle and what pressure to apply, which will change form client to client, also change within the same client from session to session and even hold to hold. We are attempting to desensitise a pathway – effectively ‘lighting up’ a pathway by stimulating the nerves in the neck to demonstrate and treat the connection to the nerves for the head and face (trigeminal nerves). By doing this our technique has been scientifically proven to decrease the overstimulation of the brainstem. No other technique (including trigger point, acupressure and manipulation of the spine) does this.
Migraine and Stroke?
Studies have shown that having migraine with aura doubles the risk of stroke caused by a blockage of the blood supply. The risk is higher in women than in men, and oddly, higher in people under the age of 45. In keeping with other risk factors migraineurs with aura who smoke and women who take the contraceptive pill are also at increased risk.
However, this must be put into context. The overall risk of stroke in the under 45 age group is extremely low due to a lack of other risk factors that come with increasing age, such as toughening of the arterial walls.
So even doubling the risk still does not make the risk particularly significant or elevate the risk to a level that should cause concern. Other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption are more significant factors in increasing the overall risk compared to migraine.
If you are concerned about your risk you should consult your doctor, and often lifestyle modification can make a large difference as many of the risk factors are preventable.
Can my bad posture be causing headaches or migraines?
Yes. The neck has long been touted as a source, but due to the ineffectiveness of traditional techniques it has been largely ignored, despite the research into posture with headache sufferers indicting a clear mechanical stressor:
“Differences in neck posture were observed in subjects with migraine, tension-type headache, or a combination of both, but not in a non-headache control group”.
David M Biondi
Biondi D, Report #2 Cervicogenic headache: Diagnostic evaluation and treatment strategies. Pain Management Rounds-Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital 2004; vol. 1, issue 8.