Osteopathy for Headaches

Headaches are among the most common health conditions, affecting more than 6 million people in Australia alone. Many different factors, including muscle tension and stress, can cause headaches.

As osteopaths, we use manual therapy that focuses on restoring normal function to the body’s joints, muscles, nerves and connective tissues. Osteopathic treatment for headaches is a very effective way to relieve headache pain by helping reduce inflammation and muscle stiffness to improve blood flow through the head and neck.

osteopathy for headaches

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Osteopathy for Headaches

The holistic approach to osteopathy is an excellent treatment for headaches. This approach includes treating the entire body with gentle techniques, known as osteopathic manipulative treatment or OMT.

Osteopaths treat the root cause of headaches, not just their symptoms. They aim to restore balance in your nervous and musculoskeletal systems by restoring movement patterns that have become restricted through general muscular tension, injury or poor posture at work.

This approach can help you find relief from tension headaches, migraines, upper neck pain and more—without relying on medication!

Common Causes of Headaches

It’s important to know what causes a headache so that you can get the proper treatment. The two common triggers for headaches are primary (triggers that cause most headaches) and secondary (triggers caused by other health conditions). 

Primary headache triggers

  • stress
  • postural strain
  • muscular tightness
  • sleep deprivation
  • fatigue
  • eating habits, such as skipping meals
  • alcohol (dehydration)
  • and… caffeine withdrawal. Don’t miss that morning coffee!

Secondary headache triggers

  • medical conditions, such as sinusitis and eye strain
  • head injury
  • medical specific dehydration 
  • menstrual cycle changes
  • side effects of certain medications
  • poor diet

Common Types of Headaches

It is important that your healthcare professional identifies the type of headache that is affecting you. There are many types of headaches, but the types we’ll concentrate on today are tension-type headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines.

Tension-type headaches

Tension-type headaches are one of the most common types of headaches with a lot of desk workers experiencing them weekly. The headache pain is typically felt on the back of the head and can radiate to behind the eyes when severe. Often people will experience tightness and tension in the shoulders and upper neck with the headache lasting between 30 minutes to 7 days. The timeframe of the headache is often linked to the mechanical strain that is causing the muscular tension.

Helpful tip: A headache diary can be helpful to figure out what might be causing your tension headaches! 

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches occur in groups over several months (hence the name), with pain that typically occurs quickly with a sharp nature on one side of the head behind the eyes. Cluster headaches can last for hours and can migrate from behind the eyes, to other areas of the head and neck region.


Migraines are similar to cluster headaches and are often viewed as severe headaches. Migraines tend to be excruciating, throbbing headaches that can last for hours. People with migraines often have other symptoms, including nausea, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light and sound, and blurred vision. Often people with migraines will experience their migraines with aura, which is where people will see an ‘aura’ (lights) in their peripheral vision during or leading up to a migraine starting. 

osteopath for headaches

Osteopathic Treatment of Headaches

Osteopathic treatment for headaches concentrates initially on settling the severity of the symptoms. This usually involves light soft tissue massage to relax muscles and improve the blood supply to the head and neck, helping the body restore normal function to the neck and head. Stretching can also help increase your range of motion, preventing the shortening of muscles and tendons that can contribute to neck pain

Once symptoms allow, osteopathic techniques will concentrate on treating the causative factors that resulted in your headache. Deep soft tissue, manipulative treatment and occasionally dry needling to the muscles and joints of the upper back and neck can all relieve the strain that may be causing a headache.

The techniques used by osteopaths can also address other causes of headache pain, such as stress and poor posture. If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines, consider trying osteopathic treatment to relieve your symptoms without rushing to the medicine cabinet for the 5th time this week.

Benefits of Osteopathy in Treating Headaches

Osteopathic treatment is shown to be effective for treating headaches and importantly, managing the root causes that lead to them. Like all manual therapy, osteopathy is a non-invasive treatment, meaning you don’t have to go under anaesthesia or take medication.

Osteopathy can also help you find the cause of your headaches to prevent future headaches from occurring. Your osteopath wants to help as much as possible and will work with you to get in control of anything that may be contributing to your frequency of headaches. Osteopaths will look into your workplace ergonomics, diet, and anything else that seems to be contributing. 

benefits of osteopathy in treating headaches

Headaches Prevention Tips

Headaches can be a debilitating condition. If you’re prone to headaches, there are some simple things that you can do to reduce the frequency and intensity of your headaches:

  • Avoid potential triggers. Triggers vary from person to person, so it’s essential to identify what triggers yours as much as possible. Commonly-known environmental triggers include stress, bright lights (like sunlight), noise, weather changes and certain foods like chocolate or caffeine.
  • Eat a balanced diet. A healthy diet is an excellent way to prevent headaches. Avoid foods that are high in refined sugars and saturated fats. These include processed meats, sweets, and sodas. Fill up on fruits, vegetables, and low-fat proteins instead!
  • Exercise regularly—but avoid overdoing it! Moderate exercise is an excellent way to keep your body fit while reducing stress levels simultaneously. However, if you’re not used to exercising regularly and suddenly start doing too much of it, this can also cause headaches. Be sure to pace yourself so that you avoid overdoing it!
  • Keep your body moving. A lot of our workplaces involve a severe lack of movement or lack of variety in movements. Keeping active and fit is not only good for your health but also your mechanics. The old saying ‘motion is lotion’ is not only true for joint pain but headaches too!
  • Maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Getting enough sleep each night is an essential part of keeping your body healthy overall—and it can also help reduce the likelihood of headaches.

Stretches and Exercises for Headaches

Some simple exercises and stretches can help ease headache pain. You can do many of these exercises in the comfort of your home, which can be an excellent way to relax and relieve stress. See below for a video example of these neck stretches for headaches. Neck stretches can help ease tension and pain in the muscles of your neck —which can be a common cause of headaches.

Related article: What is the best neck stretches for headaches?

See this link for some neck stretches we have compiled on our website.
But we’d love to hear from you, what are your favourite neck stretches?

You can also try this video for more stretches and exercises to help relieve headache pain.


Osteopathy is a safe and effective way to treat and prevent headaches. Osteopaths are trained to identify the source of your pain, whether it’s muscular, joint, or nerve related. If you suffer from headaches, consider visiting an osteopathic practitioner today. When you’re ready to stop suffering from headaches and reaching for tablets, call us today at (02) 8054 7166 or book online here!

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Our North Shore Osteopaths are here to help you with your pain so you can get back to living your best life without worrying about pain.

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Roseville NSW 2069.

In the spirit of reconciliation, MPR Health acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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If you want to find a registered Osteopath in the North Shore and Sydney, then you’ve found one. MPR Health provides osteopathy services to the following suburbs: