Headaches – How To Overcome Them

If you’re suffering from headaches/migraines, don’t worry — you’re not alone. 7 million Australians suffer from tension-type headaches every year. Headaches are no fun at all, not knowing when they will show up and how bad they will be can be stressful. Read this blog to learn about the ways in which you can overcome your headaches.

Firstly, we need to clarify a few myths about headaches/migraines.

Here are three facts about headaches and migraines that are TRUE.

  1. A HEADACHE AND A MIGRAINE ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. You might think that they are the same thing, however, they are different. If you didn’t know this, check out our headache/migraine page to learn which one is affecting you.
  2. DESPITE EXTENSIVE RESEARCH, WE DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHY PEOPLE GET HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES. I can honestly tell you that even with extensive research, we don’t know the exact reason you are getting these headaches or migraines [1]. Tension-type headaches are understudied [1], and although migraines have been the subject of much scientific research, we still do not know the exact cause of them [2].
  3. THERE IS NO ONE ‘QUICK FIX’ FOR HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the best treatment for headaches or migraines. Be careful of internet gurus saying that they have the miracle solution to your problems. Headaches and migraines can be triggered by more than one single factor. So, what do you do? Wait it out until the headache or migraine is gone? Mmmm, not really – Instead I will give you some key points to understand about these issues and what you can do about your headaches and migraines. LEARN MORE: Are you wondering what osteopathy is all about? If so, check out our post ‘What is Osteopathy? What are some common misconceptions about this profession?’ for more info.

What do we know about headaches and migraines?

  1. AN X-RAY OF MRI WON’T HELP YOU TO UNDERSTAND THE CAUSE OF YOUR HEADACHE OR MIGRAINE. Going to the hospital to have an X-Ray or MRI won’t help you to understand the causes of your headache/migraine, except if you have experienced a significant fall, an accident or unusual symptoms such as loss of vision, changes in muscle tone on the face or the arm, radiating pain down the arm and jaw and so on.
    The reason is that imaging is only recommended for people with severe or progressive neurological issues to rule out any serious problems such as cancers, infections or fractures [3, 5].
    Also, signs and symptoms of headaches and migraines can mimic a lot the same features as a stroke or cardiac issue. That’s the reason why an assessment with an Allied Health Professional is always good to do.
  2. A STRESSFUL MOMENT AT WORK OR AT HOME CAN BE A MASSIVE TRIGGER FOR HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES. Much research has demonstrated that being stressed consistently and over time, can be a source of your problem [6, 10].
  3. OVERUSE OF MEDICATIONS [6,10] IS ALSO A MAJOR ISSUE. As an Osteopath, I cannot prescribe or provide specific recommendations about which medications to take. But, you do need to know that pain killers (anti-inflammatory drugs) are not the magic fix.
    There are some studies that believe that drugs should not be used in the case of headaches and migraines [12, 14] as it can be a significant element impacting your pain.
    So, if you feel that you have taken pain killers for a long time and your pain is still here, then you must review your medications with your local doctor or pharmacist. OBESITY [6, 10],
    Besides these factors, we know that when you have a headache or a migraine, often the muscles around your head and neck can be the cause of your pain as a result of tension.
    You may experience the muscles around your head and neck becoming tender and potentially painful with time [15, 16].


As you can see, health issues are not cut and dry, and in fact, can be complex. I do not believe in magic fixes or cures for headache relief. However, adopting a combination of approaches can definitely help you to improve your quality of life, and reduce the pain intensity and frequency.

What can you do at home to relieve headaches and migraines?



  1. LEARN TO RELEASE NECK AND UPPER BACK TENSION. It is not uncommon for my patients to experience neck, shoulder and upper back stiffness and tension. Learning how to manage these tensions can make a significant change during your flare-ups. Of course, there are many other ways to decrease muscles tension associated with headaches or migraines. Would you like to know how to self-manage headaches or migraine flare-ups? Check out the video to learn some at-home techniques!
  2. WHY NOT VISIT AN OSTEOPATH? Even though you can learn to release muscle stiffness or tension on your own, sometimes it might not be enough to cut through the pain. Osteopaths use a wide range of approaches to work on your body and a treatment can be exactly what you need to experience headache or migraine relief. Also, having an assessment can be a good way to see if there are any underlying issues behind your headaches or migraines.


We know that the muscles around your neck and shoulder can be the cause of your pain due to tension.

And, you may experience the muscles around your head and neck also becoming tender and potentially painful with time (15,16).

Research has shown that a multimodal approach (using more than one mode of therapy such as massage, exercising, relaxation technique and spinal manipulative therapy) can be effective in the treatment of migraine and headaches [17,19].

It is also believed that manual therapy (hands-on treatment) used by Osteopath might be effective in decreasing pain and disability in the short-term, and are more effective than medication alone (20-26)

Some general tips to improve your headaches and migraines

Not all headaches or migraines are the same. Therefore, one size doesn’t fit all. Your situation is surely different to other people’s situations. However, I can give you some general tips to help.

  1. TRY TO IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP. By going to bed a bit earlier and switching your screen and light off, it may help you to snooze a bit faster. We know that lack of sleep can play a severe role in headache and migraine conditions [27].
  2. TRY TO EXERCISE. Studies have shown that exercise may have a good influence on the frequency and severity of your headache [28,30].
  3. ADOPT A HEALTHY BALANCED DIET. Good nutrition can potentially assist you in the process. We know now that there is a link between food and migraines/headaches. It’s always best to avoid food with preservatives [31,33].
  4. LEARN TO REDUCE YOUR STRESS BY SEEKING SUPPORT. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your situation, seeking support from an Allied Health therapist like a psychologist or a counsellor can help. Having a psychological treatment plan has shown promising results for people affected by headaches [34,35].
  5. PRACTISE MINDFULNESS MEDITATION. Learning to unwind our minds can be an amazing tool to overcome your issue. We know that meditation is not easy. Still, there are plenty of tech apps, organisations and websites offering free classes to get you to start [36,38].

I hope this article helped you to have a better view of your situation.

As mentioned before, saying that one thing is the cause of your problem may be incorrect as many factors can affect your issue and it’s important to keep that in mind. This doesn’t serve as a medical management plan but general advice to educate people affected by headaches and migraines.

Reach your goals the SMART way at Mana

At Mana, I always work with my patients as a team and the philosophy in my clinic is to ensure that you are actively part of your treatment plan. I have developed a treatment plan process to make sure you can reach your goals in a SMART way.

Specific for you: We work together to create a individualised management plan for you.

Monitor your pain level weekly or monthly: You are assisted along the way to overcome the challenges with your health.

Adequately suits your lifestyle: I make sure your treatment plan fits your needs and your life.

Realistic with what you can achieve: Nothing complicated.

Time-focused: We create goals together to get you out of pain as fast as we can.

I don’t believe in quick health scheme solutions. Our goal is to improve your quality of life for the long term.

If you are serious about getting better, why don’t you come to the clinic for a free assessment? It will be a good opportunity to meet, discuss your unique case and see how you can move forward on your health journey. Having a full medical and physical assessment can help you to understand the real causes of your problem.




  1. HeadacheClassificationCommitteeofthe International Headache Society (IHS) The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition. Cephalalgia, 2018. 38(1): p. 1-211. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29368949/

  2. Filippi,M.andR.Messina, The Chronic Migraine Brain: What Have We Learned From Neuroimaging? Frontiers in neurology, 2020. 10: p. 1356-1356.https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2019.01356/full

  3. Teddy, P.J., The role of neurosurgery in the treatment of chronic pain. Medical Journal of Australia, 2016. 204(8): p. 287-288.https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/204/8/role-neurosurgery-treatment-chronic-pain

  4. Holle, D. and M. Obermann, The role of neuroimaging in the diagnosis of headache disorders. Therapeutic advances in neurological disorders, 2013. 6(6): p. 369-374.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3825114/

  5. Micieli, A. and W. Kingston, An Approach to Identifying Headache Patients That Require Neuroimaging. Frontiers in public health, 2019. 7: p. 52-52.https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00052/full

  6. Rizzoli, P., Tension-Type Headache, in Pain Medicine: An Essential Review, R.J. Yong, et al., Editors. 2017, Springer International Publishing: Cham. p. 525-526.https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319431314

  7. Steiner, T.J., L.J.Stovner,andG.L.Birbeck, Migraine: the seventh disabler. The journal of headache and pain, 2013. 14(1): p. 1-1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288905401_Evidence-Based_Treatments_for_Adults_with_Migraine

  8. May, A.andL.H.Schulte, Chronic migraine: risk factors, mechanisms and treatment. Nat Rev Neurol, 2016. 12(8): p. 455-64.

  9. Hajjarzadeh, S., et al., Comparison of Diet Quality Between Women With Chronic and Episodic Migraine. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 2019. 59(8): p. 1221-1228

  10. Chiang, C.-C., et al., Treatment of medication- overuse headache: A systematic review. Cephalalgia, 2015. 36(4): p. 371-386.

  11. Thorlund, K., et al., Risk of medication overuse headache across classes of treatments for acute migraine. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 2016. 17(1): p. 107.

  12. Chou, R., et al., The effectiveness and risks of long- term opioid therapy for chronic pain: a systematic review for a National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Workshop. Ann Intern Med, 2015. 162(4): p. 276-86.

  13. Watson, D.H.andP.D.Drummond, Head pain referral during the examination of the neck in migraine and tension-type headache. Headache, 2012. 52(8): p. 1226-35.

  14. Teddy, P.J., The role of neurosurgery in the treatment of chronic pain. Medical Journal of Australia, 2016. 204(8): p. 287-288.

  15. Chaibi, A., Tuchin, P. J., & Russell, M. B. (2011). Manual therapies for migraine: a systematic review. The journal of headache and pain, 12(2), 127–133. doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0296-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3072494/

  16. Biondi DM. Physical Treatments for Headache: A structured Review. Headache 2005;45:738-746. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15953306

  17. Eva Ekvall Hansson & Margareta Troein (2011) Vestibular rehabilitation for vestibular migraine, Advances in Physiotherapy, 13:1, 34-37, DOI: 10.3109/14038196.2010.550061/https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/14038196.2010.550061

  18. Cerritelli, F., et al., Osteopathy for primary headache patients: a systematic review. J Pain Res, 2017. 10: p. 601-611.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5359118/

  19. Deydre S. Teyhen, P., PhD, Neck Pain: Combining Exercise and Manual Therapy for Your Neck and Upper Back Leads to Quicker Reductions in Pain. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2013. 43(3): p. 128-128.https://www.jospt.org/doi/full/10.2519/jospt.2013.0502

  20. Brantingham, J.W., et al., Manipulative therapy for shoulder pain and disorders: expansion of a systematic review. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2011. 34(5): p. 314-46.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21640255

  21. Coelho, M., et al., The effectiveness of manipulation and mobilization on pain and disability in individuals with cervicogenic and tension-type headaches: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Physical Therapy Reviews, 2019. 24(1-2): p. 29-43. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10833196.2019.1572963

  22. Espí, G., et al., Effect of manual therapy techniques on headache disability in patients with tension-type headache. Randomized controlled trial. European journal of physical and rehabilitation medicine, 2014. 50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24785463

  23. Lozano López, C., et al., Efficacy of manual therapy in the treatment of tension-type headache. A systematic review from 2000 to 2013. Neurología (English Edition), 2016. 31(6): p. 357-369.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24856370

  24. Chaibi, A. and M.B. Russell, Manual therapies for primary chronic headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The journal of headache and pain, 2014. 15(1): p. 67-67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4194455/

  25. Sullivan, D.P., P.R. Martin, and M.J. Boschen, Psychological Sleep Interventions for Migraine and Tension-Type Headache: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Scientific Reports, 2019. 9(1): p. 6411.

  26. Lemmens, J., et al., The effect of aerobic exercise on the number of migraine days, duration and pain intensity in migraine: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 2019. 20(1): p. 16.


  28. Kim, S.-D., Effects of yoga exercises for headaches: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Journal of physical therapy science, 2015. 27(7): p. 2377-2380.

  29. Nazari, F. and M. Eghbali, Migraine and its relationship with dietary habits in women. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 2012. 17(2 Suppl 1): p. S65-S71

  30. Razeghi Jahromi, S., et al., Association of diet and headache. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 2019. 20(1): p. 106.

  31. Martin, V.T. and B. Vij, Diet and Headache: Part 1. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 2016. 56(9): p. 1543-1552.

  32. Weatherall, M.W., The diagnosis and treatment of chronic migraine. Therapeutic advances in chronic disease, 2015. 6(3): p. 115-123.

  33. Lee, H.J., et al., Efficacy of psychological treatment for headache disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 2019. 20(1): p. 17.

  34. Gu, Q., J.C. Hou, and X.M. Fang, Mindfulness Meditation for Primary Headache Pain: A Meta-Analysis. Chin Med J (Engl), 2018. 131(7): p. 829-838.

  35. Hilton, L., et al., Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Behav Med, 2017. 51(2): p. 199-213.

  36. Wells, R.E., L. Granetzke, and B. Paolini, Complementary and Alternative Approaches to Chronic Daily Headache: Part I—Mind/Body, in Chronic Headache: A Comprehensive Guide to Evaluation and Management, M.W. Green, R. Cowan, and F.G. Freitag, Editors. 2019, Springer International Publishing: Cham. p. 239-251.

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