Headaches and Migraines are a very common reason why patients present to our clinic for treatment. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) adults aged 20-50 are the most common sufferers of headache, however children and adolescents are also affected. Headache and Migraines represent a significant burden to society. See your practitioner today at Head Above Osteopathy in Brisbane, for migraine treatment and management.

There are multiple causes of headaches and just as many types. The treatment for headache can vary depending on the cause, so it is important to receive a thorough investigation and accurate diagnosis from a qualified health professional. Your osteopath can determine the type of headache you may have and, in most cases, can help prevent, treat and manage headache, or refer you for further investigation and treatment when required.

Types of Headache

Below is a list of some of the more common types/causes of headaches. Information sheets about some of these specific headaches are linked below.

  • Eye Strain Headache
  • Tension Headache
  • Viral infection – cold/flu
  • Dehydration and hangover
  • Migraine – related to blood vessels in the head
  • Sinus headache – blocked or inflamed nasal passages
  • Allergies and allergic reactions
  • Medication side effects
  • Cervicogenic – due to structures in the head/neck
  • Trauma/concussion
  • Neuralgia – irritation or inflammation of nerves
  • Pressure on the brain – clots, bleeding or tumours
  • Serious infection

Causes for concern

While most headaches can be effectively treated using over the counter pain relief, fluids rest and manual therapy, including osteopathic treatments, some headaches may be the symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition. It is important to seek prompt medical attention if any of the following apply:

  • The headache is the worst ever experienced
  • Associated neck or spine pain/stiffness
  • Very sudden onset
  • Accompanied by fainting, fitting or unconsciousness
  • Associated fever of flu-like symptoms
  • Associated with skin rash
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Disturbed vision or hearing
  • Disturbed gait (walking)
  • Pain that increases in severity or frequency overtime
  • Associated memory loss
  • Difficulty swallowing/talking
  • Associated muscle weakness
  • History of cardiovascular disease
  • Pins and needles in the head and/or upper body
  • Pain in the arms
  • Headache is different to usual or past headaches and/or not relieved by usual treatments


Migraine headaches are often mistakenly thought of as just a very bad headache. However, migraine comprises a very distinct set of symptoms, and is largely considered a neurological disorder involving the neuro-vasculature – the blood flow to and from the brain and brain stem. Genetic and environmental factors each contribute to the likelihood of experiencing migraine headache.

Causes and Triggers of Migraine

The exact mechanism of migraine is not clear, although abnormal neuronal activity within the brain and dysfunction of the blood vessels that supply the brain, are thought to be involved. However, most people report having a “trigger” that will elicit symptoms up to 24 hours following exposure. Triggers include:

  • Diet: foods, alcohol, additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners or fasting/skipping a meal
  • Sensory stimuli: bright or flashing light, loud noise, strong or specific odours
  • Weather: changes in conditions and barometric pressure
  • Intense physical exertion
  • Medications
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes: oestrogen fluctuation during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause
  • Sleep disturbance: altered sleep patterns and jetlag

Symptoms of Migraine

The symptoms of migraine can range from mild to severe, and their recurrence may decrease with age, and during pregnancy. Symptoms of migraine typically include:

  • Aura – a third of migraine sufferers experience transient visual, sensory or motor disturbances, called “aura” that precede the headache.
  • Throbbing, aching pain, usually on one side of the head
  • Pain that increases over 1-2 hours and can last for 1-2 days
  • Associated neck and back pain
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision and fatigue
  • In some cases, impaired function/grogginess for 1-2 days after the episode

Treatment and management

Migraines require investigation by your GP who can prescribe medications to control pain, and possibly prevent severe migraines. The following can also help:

  • Rest in a quiet dark, room
  • A cold pack/face-washer on the head can provide relief
  • Keep hydrated
  • Avoid known triggers
  • Keep hydrated
  • Avoid bright light/screen time

Osteopathic Treatment Can Assist By:

  • Resolving associated muscle pain and spasm
  • Ergonomic and postural intervention
  • Prescribing preventative exercises and stretches
  • Identification of ergonomic, training or lifestyle factors that may trigger migraine