How ‘Fascial Manipulation’ could help you with headaches and migraines

Headaches and migraines can be treatable with hands-on treatments.

If you suffer with headaches and migraines then you’ll already know that they can be truly debilitating! There are different causes for them, some of which are very treatable with hands-on treatments and some unfortunately less so. This article aims to shed light on the different types and how fascial manipulation might be able to help.

In 2016 the World Health Organisation published these facts…

  • Headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system.

  • It has been estimated that almost half of the adult population have had a headache at least once within the last year.

  • Headache disorders, which are characterised by recurrent headache, are associated with personal and societal burdens of pain, disability, damaged quality of life, and financial cost.

  • Headache has been underestimated, under-recognised and under-treated throughout the world.

What are migraines?

Migraines are primary headaches and they are truly horrible. They are caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head. Migraine most often begins at puberty and most affects those aged between 35 and 45 years. It is more common in women, usually by a factor of about 2:1, because of hormonal influences. It is recurrent, often life-long, and characterised by recurring attacks which typically include headache, which is:

  • of moderate or severe intensity

  • one-sided

  • pulsating in quality

  • aggravated by routine physical activity

  • with duration of hours to 2-3 days

  • nausea (the most characteristic associated feature)

  • attack frequency is anywhere between once a year and once a week

  • in children, attacks tend to be of shorter duration and abdominal symptoms more prominent.

Tension-type headaches (TTH)

In my experience a lot of patients will call their bad headaches migraines but luckily for them they are actually tension-type headaches. The good news is that these headaches are super treatable even if you have had treatment that has not worked in the past.

  • Tension-type headaches are the most common primary headache disorder.

  • Its mechanism may be stress-related or associated with musculoskeletal problems in the neck and in the rest of the body.

  • This headache is often described as pressure or tightness, often like a band around the head, sometimes spreading into or from the neck.

  • Episodic TTH, occurring on fewer than 15 days per month, is reported by more than 70% of some populations – attacks usually last a few hours, but can persist for several days.

  • Chronic TTH, occurring on more than 15 days per month, affects 1-3% of adults and can be very disabling.

  • TTH often begins during the teenage years, affecting three women to every two men.

What is Fascial Manipulation – Stecco Method and why might it help Tension Type Headaches?

We are connected from head to toe / head to hands in a super strong connective tissue called fascia. Specialised cells in this fascia produce the lubricant that allows our tissues to slide friction free.

All is well when this lubricant stays in super short molecule lengths but when we are:

  • injured with pain lasting over six weeks
  • live in prolonged physical or emotional stress
  • or immobilised for longer than three weeks

these molecules start aggregating together and become sticky leading to abnormally high resting muscle tone. The increased muscle pull in one area abnormally loads up another area (chronic overuse) and can cause a secondary area of densifications…and so on. So you can see how tension and fascial ‘densifications’ can start anywhere in our bodies depending on what’s happened to us. It’s why the history taking in the first treatment session is so detailed and thorough.

Case Study

I once treated a person in their 30’s for terrible headaches following a very minor rear car shunt. When I assessed them and followed the abnormal fascial tension down from the head, I discovered that the fascia associated with moving one of their hips out to the side was super ‘densified’ and on further questioning they told me when they were eight they had a bone graft taken from that hip and that they remembered it being agony for ages afterwards. This person had lived with tension around her hip for so long her body had adapted (her normal) and over time this tension had spread up towards her neck and head – her final tiny straw was the minor car bump which pushed her body past the ability to adapt and cope any more. The great news was that after finding the ‘real’ cause for her headaches they totally cleared in two treatments and have not returned.


One of the benefits of FM – Stecco method, is that the results are quick and it usually only takes one or two treatments to get a clear indication if the headaches are going to be helped or not. If the cause is abnormal musculoskeletal system tissue tension, then as we normalise this tension the head pains will reduce too. I have treated some patients who wanted to check their headaches were really true migraines before starting on potentially lifelong medication. In these cases, of true migraines, their headaches did not alter but they reported other unexpected benefits of increased freedom of movement in their necks and reduced tension feeling in their bodies following the FM treatments. If you have had treatment that has not worked in the past, it may well be worth investigating whether FM – Stecco Method could be the answer for you.


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