About Migraines

What Is A Migraine?

Migraine is more than just a headache. It is actually a neurological condition which is often associated with a family history so there is a strong genetic component. You are four times more likely to have a migraine condition if you have a parent or grandparent who has had them.

Migraine is one of the most disabling headaches, recurrent in nature. it often manifests in attacks lasting 4–72 hours. Typical characteristics of the headache are unilateral location, pulsating quality, moderate or severe intensity, and associated with nausea/vomiting and/or light and noise sensitivity. These symptoms are caused by a sensitivity in the lower part of the brain called the Brainstem. The brainstem is the final region of the central nervous system where all nerves from the body travel through before they spread out through the rest of the brain. Hence, increased sensitivity in this region can have a significant impact on many distinct parts and functions of the body, mainly structures found in the head but migraine can impact on the whole body.

Migraine Diagnosis

How Do We Diagnose A Migraine?

The diagnosis considers the severity of the headache, as well as the impact on a person’s ability to function normally in life. Although the severity of the headache is usually very severe, the associated symptoms such as nausea or light sensitivity will cause a person to retreat to a dark quiet room as any sensory stimulation is irritating. This is why migraine is such a debilitating condition, leading to inability to work, study or be involved in social activities.

Migraine Symptoms


 Feeling tired or weary

Difficulty with concentration



Neck stiffness

Increased sensitivity

Sensitivity to light and sound



Blurred vision / diplopia


Nausea and/or vomitting




Treating Migraines With The Watson Headache® Approach

Migraine Treatment

Treatment is often focused on the use of medications which target the nerve sensitivity in the brainstem. These can include triptans, CGRP (Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide) injections or Botox.

The underlying driver of migraine (brainstem sensitivity) is the same for all migraine presentations, such as dietary changes, sleep improvements, exercise, and upper neck treatment. This is why treatment of the upper neck can be effective in changing migraine symptoms.

Sydney Headache and Migraine Centre uses the Watson Headache® Approach which focuses on addressing the underlying mechanical dysfunctions in the upper neck that can be dialling up sensitivity in the brainstem, causing migraine. Skilled physiotherapists trained in the Watson Headache® Approach utilise specific manual techniques to assess and treat dysfunctions in the cervical spine and related structures. These techniques have been proven to reduce the sensitisation of the nervous system, providing relief from migraine symptoms.

Cervical Referral of Head Pain in Migraineurs: Effects on the Nociceptive Blink Reflex Dean H. Watson, MAppSc; Peter D. Drummond, PhD, Headache 2014;54:1035-1045

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