Headaches are often a challenging problem to treat. This is primarily due to the many possible causes responsible for headaches and the various types identified, as well as the fact that all patients respond to treatments differently. Medications typically serve as the most common intervention used to manage headaches, but they are far from the only choice available. Physical therapy is an alternative approach to treating headaches that many studies have shown to be effective, especially when it involves a technique called biofeedback. We now offer biofeedback therapy here at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy, which allows us to provide superior relief for your headaches in New York City.
More than 150 different types of headaches have been classified, but they can all be generally categorized as either primary or secondary. A primary headache simply means the headache itself is the disorder, while secondary headaches result from other conditions like stroke, infection, or head injury. The most common type overall is called tension headache, which affect more than one-third of men and more than one half of women. Patients with tension headaches usually experience a dull, aching pain and tightness across the forehead and around the head that some describe as wearing a headband that’s too tight. Some tension headaches are hard to tell apart from migraines, the second most common type.
Migraines affect up to one in seven adults and are about three times more common in women than in men. They are usually described as a throbbing, pounding pain that can last from hours to several days, sometimes multiple times each month. A unique sign of migraine is that many patients experience other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, noise, or smells, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, or upset stomach.
What physical therapy and biofeedback can do for headaches in New York City
Physical therapy is commonly regarded as an effective treatment for headaches that can be used either instead of or in addition to medications. This applies to all types of headaches, but particularly tension headaches and migraines, as numerous studies have found physical therapy to be beneficial for patients with these conditions. Physical therapists may utilize a variety of possible treatments and techniques for headache patients, including education, manual therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, posture correction, or biofeedback.
Biological feedback—or biofeedback—teaches individuals to control certain functions of their involuntary nervous system, including heart rate, skin temperature, muscle tension, and blood pressure. It does this by using an instrument that measures one of these bodily responses as the patient tries to modify that very response. For example, increased muscle tension and changes in body temperature are two of the body’s responses to stress that can lead to headaches. Therefore, by providing a patient with instant information on these involuntary processes, they can observe their body’s response to stress and make changes to reduce it. After using the device successfully and learning how to make the right changes, patients can use the technique any time to prevent headaches from occurring or even stop them in their tracks.
The first step of our process is identifying what type of headache each patient has through a detailed evaluation, and then selecting the appropriate method of biofeedback based on this diagnosis. Patients with migraines often respond to skin temperature biofeedback, while those with tension and other types of headaches may respond to a combination of skin temperature and electromyogram (EMG) biofeedback. Here’s how these types of biofeedback will help address your headaches in New York City:
- Skin temperature biofeedback
- This type of biofeedback is based on the concept that the hands tend to get cold and clammy when under stress, but warmer when the body is relaxed due to more blood flowing to the area
- In this technique, a patient will attach a temperature reader to their index finger for an extended period and monitor how the skin temperature of their hand changes
- The goal for patients is to increase the temperature of the hands, since that will increase blood flow to the area and away from the head, which will lower stress levels and the incidence of headaches
- EMG biofeedback
- This type of biofeedback is based on how certain muscles in the head, jaw, and neck respond to stress by becoming more tense
- In this technique, three sensors are placed on one of these muscles to record the body’s response, and as tension increases, the EMG will become louder (and vice versa)
- The goal for patients is to monitor these changes and learn what lowers tension in these muscles, and then practice this on a regular basis to reduce stress levels and headache frequency
If you’re dealing with regular headaches in New York City and are interested in seeing how you respond to biofeedback and other physical therapy techniques, we’d like to help. Contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on biofeedback for headaches.