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A Comparison of Physical Therapy and Relaxation and Thermal Biofeedback for Headache Treatment

If you suffer from headaches and are considering treatment options, you may be wondering which approach will provide the most benefit. A study compared the effectiveness of physical therapy (PT) to relaxation and thermal biofeedback (RTB) for headache treatment. The PT group received standard physical therapy techniques such as posture correction, neck and shoulder exercises, and spine mobilization. The RTB group focused on muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and the use of a thermal feedback device. The study found that 51% of the RTB group reported successful outcomes compared to only 13% in the PT group. However, both groups reported continued benefit at 3, 6, and 12-month follow-ups, suggesting that addressing muscle tension reduction, as in the RTB group, may result in a better outcome. Teaching patients self-management techniques, including relaxation, was found to be most beneficial.

A Comparison of Physical Therapy and Relaxation and Thermal Biofeedback for Headache Treatment

A Comparison of Physical Therapy and Relaxation and Thermal Biofeedback for Headache Treatment


If you suffer from headaches, you know how debilitating they can be. They can interfere with your daily activities and diminish your quality of life. That’s why finding effective treatment options is crucial. In this article, we will explore two popular approaches for headache treatment: physical therapy (PT) and relaxation and thermal biofeedback (RTB). We will compare their effectiveness and discuss how they can help alleviate your headache symptoms.


Before we delve into the specific treatment options, let’s first understand the causes of headaches. One of the reported causes of both migraines and tension headaches is cervical muscle tension and spinal joint abnormalities in the neck. These issues can lead to pain and discomfort, making it difficult to carry out your daily tasks.

Knowing the underlying causes allows healthcare professionals to develop targeted treatment approaches to address the root of the problem. This is where physical therapy and relaxation and thermal biofeedback come into play.

A Comparison of Physical Therapy and Relaxation and Thermal Biofeedback for Headache Treatment

Causes of Headaches

As mentioned earlier, cervical muscle tension and spinal joint abnormalities in the neck are common causes of headaches. Other factors that can contribute to headaches include stress, poor posture, eye strain, dehydration, and certain medical conditions. Identifying and addressing these causes is essential for effective headache management.

Types of Headaches

There are different types of headaches, each with unique characteristics and triggers. The two most common types are migraines and tension headaches. Migraines are typically characterized by severe throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and visual disturbances. Tension headaches, on the other hand, cause a constant dull ache or pressure around the head.

Understanding the type of headache you are experiencing can help determine the most appropriate treatment approach.

Treatment Options

When it comes to managing headaches, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different individuals may respond differently to various treatment options. However, physical therapy and relaxation and thermal biofeedback have shown promise in alleviating headache symptoms and providing long-term relief.

Physical Therapy (PT)

Physical therapy is a non-invasive treatment approach that focuses on improving the function and mobility of the body. For headaches, PT aims to address the underlying musculoskeletal issues and promote proper alignment of the head and spine.

Approaches for PT

There are several approaches to physical therapy for headache treatment. These include:

Posture correction for alignment of head and spine

Poor posture can contribute to muscle tension and joint abnormalities in the neck, leading to headaches. Physical therapists can teach you proper posture techniques and exercises to correct alignment and alleviate pain.

Cervical range of motion for neck and shoulders

Improving the range of motion in your neck and shoulders can help reduce muscle tension and relieve headache symptoms. Physical therapists use specific exercises and stretches to increase flexibility and mobility in these areas.

Isometric strengthening of the neck

Weak neck muscles can contribute to headaches. PT includes isometric exercises to strengthen the muscles in your neck, reducing strain and providing better support to the head and spine.

Flare-up management techniques

During a headache flare-up, specific techniques can help manage the pain and discomfort. Physical therapists can teach you relaxation exercises, self-massage techniques, and other strategies to alleviate symptoms during these episodes.

Active self-mobilization of the spine

By actively mobilizing your spine, you can improve overall spinal health and reduce tension that can contribute to headaches. Physical therapists can guide you in performing self-mobilization techniques safely and effectively.

Whole body stretching

In addition to neck-specific exercises, incorporating whole body stretching into your physical therapy routine can be beneficial. Stretching improves flexibility, increases blood flow, and promotes relaxation throughout the body.

By incorporating these approaches into your daily routine, you can address the underlying causes of your headaches and improve your overall well-being.


  • Self-Management Approaches for Headaches: Link

In conclusion, when it comes to headache treatment, both physical therapy and relaxation and thermal biofeedback offer promising results. While physical therapy focuses on addressing musculoskeletal issues and promoting alignment, relaxation and thermal biofeedback provide techniques for reducing muscle tension and enhancing relaxation. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable approach for your specific needs. With the right treatment and self-management techniques, you can find relief from headaches and regain control of your life.

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