Headache and Migraine Specialised Treatment

Physiotherapy for Cervicogenic headaches is a well-established component of physiotherapy, however treatment for other headaches such as migraines and tension type headaches are for many, outside their scope of practice. However, an extremely successful physiotherapy treatment approach has been developed in Australia. The Watson Headache ® Approach was established in South Australia by Dr Dean Watson, a physiotherapist who has specialised in treating headaches and migraines for over 30 years and completed his PHD in headache and migraine management. I have been fortunate to complete extensive training with Dean in Australia and I worked in the foremost specialist headache and migraine centre in Melbourne Australia with the mentoring of Roger O’ Toole, an extremely experienced and knowledgeable headache consultant. I am really excited to bring this physiotherapy technique to Sligo and to Ireland.

The Watson Headache ® Approach

Through extensive experience and research Dean recognised a gap in understanding and treatment for headache and migraine sufferers. He understood that the neck was under diagnosed as the cause of headaches and furthered his research in this area. He was able to prove that 100% of tension type headache sufferers and 94% of migraine sufferers had their symptoms reproduced via specific points in their neck (Watson and Drummond, 2012). He then went on to prove that the Watson Headache ® Approach could impact and desensitise the brainstem, which is thought to be the underlying structure causing a large percentage of migraines (Watson and Drummond, 2014). The brainstem is the area of the brain that houses all the nerves for the head and the face. Specifically, an area called the trigeminal nucleus, which has been found to be overstimulated in all headache types whether it is migraine, menstrual migraine, tension-type headache, cluster headache and so on. The nerves from the upper three segments in the neck feed directly into the trigeminal nucleus which is also housing the nerves for the head and the face, therefore it stands to reason, it is appropriate to assess the neck in all headache and migraine sufferers.


Watson, DH., Drummond, PD. (2012), Head pain referral during examination of the neck in migraine and tension type headache. Headache; 52:1226-1235.

Watson, DH., Drummond, PD. (2014), Cervical referral of head pain in migraineurs: effects on the nociceptive blink reflex. Headache; 54: 1035-1045

Is your neck the cause?

This is why the Watson Headache ® Approach is essential when treating headaches and migraines because the assessment technique used, can established if your neck is contributing to your migraines.

What does assessment involve?

Initial physiotherapy assessment involves a comprehensive verbal and targete