Watson Headache Approach

For any of you dealing with neck pain issues and suspect your neck is triggering this crap, I’d highly recommend you find a PT or physiotherapist who knows what the Watson Approach is and get into it. My physio did this for me about 3 years ago now. It literally changed my life. I still get migraine garbage here and there but rarely dizzy now and have this monster well and truly reined in.

Dean is competing his PhD. It’s evidence based stuff. No nonsense here.

Cheers - Scott


Hi Scott -

Thanks for the tip. Based on my research, there is no one in the USA that knows about this (or at least in writing). All the folks in the USA - if you find one, please share!


Hi scott

It seems there is a couple in the UK that do the Watson approach. How bad was your neck ache and head aches? I get neck ache on and off, not every day and my daily migraines have only been going on for 5 weeks now. In the UK you need to have daily headaches for 3 months and a clear recent MRI scan to have this done. My last MRI was a year and half ago. What symptoms did you have and did it alieviate for you?


Hi Vicki. I’m really interested in exploring this. Where in the UK do they do it? I always believed my neck was the source of the problem but my specislist led me to believe my neck issues were a result of the migraine. It’s something I would like to look into.


I just Googled it and a few places come up for London area. If my headache persists for another 2 months ill definitely give this a try x

I’ve had a major improvement from Watson Headache Approach - not enough to completely rid me if my vestibular migraine but about 80% improvement (and after just the first few sessions).

If you’re outside Australia you can email Dean & Jane Watson and they’ll check their records to see if they’ve trained anyone in your area - they’ve trained PT’s from all over the world! Jane can take a little while to reply as they’re very busy, but they’ll definitely get back to you. They’re both genuinely really lovely people who want to help, and are full of useful info too. Info@watsonheadache.com
I’ve been going to Melbourne Headache Centre as I’m not in the right city to see them directly but have spoken to them via phone and email several times.

They put me on to an awesome Watson trained PT in Hamilton, NZ for when I’m visiting family there too.

I’ve heard that this place in UK is quite good;

Hi Faera,

thanks so much. I am so happy for you! I emailed their office many months ago, but never heard back, unfortunately. I’ll try again.

Are you still on the Topamax or are you at 80% without any meds? Do you keep up with the PT or did you stop after a few sessions?

Also, can you please tel us a bit about the Watson method? What do they do? In case I can;t find someone traind in it, maybe I can relay the general idea to them.

Thanks again :smile:

Hey Folks! I would also be very interested in any physio trained in this approach in the London area. In my case this horrible disease started with neck spasms at night - I am a dentist and I think bad posture, constant high magnification (3.5xloupes) straining my eyes and stress caused all this. I have a constant feeling of swaying and rocking when walking, severe neck pain and trigger points and will need to stop working now to get better. Beside migraine diet and medication (on Gabapentin at present) I am trying to stay positive and would like to incorporate physiotherapie in my treatment. Any help highly appreciated…Hope we will all beat this beast of a condition… Best Johannes

Hi Johannes,

sorry you are in the same rocking boat (pun intended :wink: ).

You should be able to find a bunch of WHA (watson)- trained physios in London since Dean Watson trains there.

try these: http://www.krinapanchalphysio.com/

http://www.csp.org.uk/frontline/article/when-headache-pain-neck (there’s an email address at the end: To contact the headache special interest group, email jayne.davies@buryphysio.co.uk)

it should be easy to find someone there.

I hope you get better soon.

Hi. Just wondering if this can help migraine without the headache? I get the odd heapache but not ‘migraine’ headache, it’s all the other symptoms that bother me and I’m sure my neck trouble has played a role in causing it, rather than just being a symptom of it.

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I am the same! Not really experiencing major headaches - more the constant 24/7 dizziness (floating/feeling on a boat/trampoline) plus head fog, difficulties concentrating… What are your symptoms if I may ask?

Yep all of the above! I also had/ occasionally have this strange head pressure. Kind of like an invisible vice is gripping my heading, and twisting it at the same time! A lot of the rocking, pressure and disequilibrium has eased since the meds/diet. A lot of visual distortion remains. It’s hard to focus, sometimes feels like each eye is doing its own thing! And intense visual stimulus is tricky - supermarkets, busy places. I’m also very sensitive to noise still. I can’t filter out noises around me and focus in on one thing. General sensory madness I suppose!

My head - not my heading!

Thanks so much for the info!! Very appreciated!

Yes, it’s for migraine headaches, including its variants such as MAV.

Yes supermarkets and crowds bother me too - loud noises are a big problem as well. May I ask which medication helped you? How many did you try and how did you notice improvement. I am in this exactly a year now and its a super tough one (as you all know). Anyways - good to hear you are better as this gives me a lot of hope.

My main issue is 24/7 disequilibrium too - apparently there’s a lot of us on this “boat”!

I’ve been diagnosed with Vestibular Migraine, and it started all of a sudden in October 2014, after being sick with a bad head cold/sinus infection, and just hasn’t gone away.

For the first few months I had no pain/headache, but then began having pain off and on. I also had nausea, bad motion sickness, and blurriness/aura in my left eye. At my worst I also had horrible brain fog, difficulty understanding what was being said to me, and difficulty finding words (expressive and receptive dysphasia) - it was like my IQ had been dialed waaayyyy down. I also have a terrible time with fluorescent lights, and too much visual stimuli - like shopping centres, supermarkets, crowds etc

I was on 50mg Topamax when I started the Watson PT, but have since come off the Topamax as I didn’t think it was doing much (if anything). I initially wanted to try a higher dose of Topamax first to see if that helped but it made me so horribly dizzier when I tried to titrate up, that I gave up. I do wonder if maybe I gave up too quickly.

The Watson PT was 2 sessions a week for the fist two weeks, then one session a week for the next 2-3 weeks. Generally if you respond to treatment, 4-5 sessions total should be enough for most people, with then just the occasional maintenance treatment when you feel you need it.
Basically the theory (as I interpreted it) is that problems with your upper cervical spine cause a type of sensory overload of the brainstem as it’s right at the base of the skull, which for migrainers triggers the migraine response. Dean Watson explains it much better though; http://www.watsonheadache.com/about-watson-headache-approach/

The treatment is a series of non manipulative (no ‘cracking’) techniques applied in a systematic way. It feels a bit like pressure point type massage. It can be a bit uncomfortable at times (similar to the way sports or deep tissue massage can be) and at other times I almost go to sleep.
The C2 in particular is linked with vertigo/balance problems - mine was deviated quite badly to the right when I first went in, and this was also the side I was having neck/shoulder pain.

I felt no improvement during the first treatment, however the next morning I woke up with major improvement. Overnight I went from walking zigzags, rocking, swaying, and bouncing off the walls like a pinball to almost being able to walk a straight line, no rocking. The next few treatments saw a bit more improvement in balance, my eye aura/blurriness stopped, my nausea disappeared and the motion sickness was greatly reduced, and my brain fog lifted making me feel like a semi-intelligent person once again! I also had no pain in between treatments.

I did have trouble maintaining the improvement beyond 2 weeks after a session. I have since discovered I have loose ligaments (a.k.a. hypermobility), meaning I’m much more flexible than most people, and my ligaments don’t retract or stay tight like a regular person. Basically they’d pop my C1-2 vertabrae back in line and I’d feel great, but my loose ligaments weren’t able to hold them there so it’d all just go back out of alignment again. I now have special exercises for my neck and shoulders to help strengthen them and can go 2-3 months between PT appointments now.

For me it wasn’t enough to completely fix me, and I still am unable to drive, or work. However it has been a major improvement, and the only thing to have helped so far, as none of the drugs I’ve tried have helped the balance problems. I still have blurriness in my eye that comes and goes, motion sickness (but nowhere near as bad as it was), can’t handle shopping centres or fluoru lights etc, and difficulty using/focusing on computers for very long, but my boat is on very gentle waters now.

I’m currently on 100mg Metoprolol - this has taken almost all the head pain away!!! I haven’t had anything worse than very occasional very very mild migraine pain since starting this drug.
I’m also on 37.5mg of Effexor XR (extended release) - not sure yet if this is helping the balance or not, but at least I feel less depressed. It also hasn’t made me gain weight, which is a rare thing for me when it comes to drugs!

BTW If you guys want to, there’s a closed group support group on fb;
Migraine Associated Vertigo (dizziness)

Lots of people from UK, USA, and Australia, plus other places too.

Hi Faera,

Thank you so much for your response. I hope you get to 100% soon.

Best wishes,

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This watson approach is really interesting. I’m going to look into it further in the UK.

Mr.molar, over the years I have suffered from several acute episodes that came and went after a couple of weeks, but these were seriously intense episodes when I couldn’t move my head in bed with our being sick. This less intense, chronic thing set in a year or so ago. I have been on nortriptyline and diet since July. I’m so much better than I was but still left with visual rubbish, noise sensitivity and other symptoms mildly. Did I see you’re in the south east? Dr Surenthiren o’s who you should try and see. Maybe start the diet to help that way.

Faera, I’ve always had neck trouble and I saw a chiropractor for a while and was told I am too hypermobile. So does this mean you will have to continue this watson approach for- well-ever?! If it helps I’d rather have this done occasionally than be on meds and the diet, especially as a long term management strategy. I imagine it’s costly though! Do you follow the diet and have this?

I hope everyone feels better soon!