Melbourne sticks its neck out in world first drugless migraine treatment trial

A new approach to treatment could bring relief to two million Australians who suffer from migraines.

A Melbourne clinic is taking part in a world-first trial that focuses on the neck, and not the head, as the source of the pain.

For Cindy Stephenson the simple act of picking up toys was enough to cause searing pain.

After giving birth to twins she began suffering daily excruciating migraines

Cindy Stephenson said drugs failied to stop her migraines, which struck after she gave birth to twins. Photo: 7 News
Cindy Stephenson said drugs failied to stop her migraines, which struck after she gave birth to twins. Photo: 7 News

“I felt like my head was going to explode. Every time I had one, I felt like that was going to be the end of me,” she said.

After medication failed Cindy's pain was alleviated by a physiotherapy technique which focusses on the neck.

Therapists apply pressure and over six sessions try to desensitise the pain pathways from the neck to the headache centre of the brain.


Roger O’Toole from the Melbourne Headache Centre said the technique aimed for the top of the neck at the base of the skull.

“We treat the very top part of the neck so between the base of the skull,” Mr O’Toole said.

“The results do vary; everything from people not having headaches any more to having far less severe far less frequent headaches.

Roger O'Toole demonstrates the technique which will be subject to the trial. Photo: 7 News
Roger O'Toole demonstrates the technique which will be subject to the trial. Photo: 7 News

Pioneered by Murdoch University researcher Dean Watson, the technique is used in 22 countries.

Now Australian clinicians will conduct a world first trial hoping to scientifically prove the method helps reduce headaches in up to 80 per cent of patients

Almost two million Australians suffer debilitating migraines which can last up to three days and involve nausea dizziness and sensitivity to light and noise

If the trial succeeds it may be recoginsed as the first credible drug free treatment for migraine.

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