There are different types of headache, many of which can be effectively treated by a physical therapist. Examples include but are not limited to: cervicogenic, tension, and post-traumatic headache. Physical therapists CANNOT treat a true migraine, however, migraines typically occur in conjunction with other classifications of headache which we CAN treat. As a general rule, if your pain has a typical pattern (behind the eye, into the temple, at the base of the skull) and is generally one sided I CAN TREAT IT! Soft tissue structures and joints in the cervical spine are often responsible for headache; chronically poor posture or movement quality may also contribute. Specific joint mobilization in the cervical and thoracic spine, soft tissue work, and correctional exercise are key components of a successful treatment regime. Medications alone will only mask headache symptoms.
Vertigo can also be treated by a physical therapist if it is of a certain type. The most common type is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), which is caused by an abnormal movement of particles in the inner ear. This results in sudden bouts of intense dizziness with head movements such as bending down or rolling over in bed. BPPV can occur for no apparent reason, but is extremely disruptive to one's normal daily activities.
True BPPV can be diagnosed quickly and accurately by placing the head in a specific position, and can be treated fully in a matter of minutes. An MRI is not effective in diagnosing BPPV as it will not detect the abnormal movement of particles. Many physicians are not aware that physical therapists are fully trained to treat BPPV, so EDUCATE YOURSELF!
On a personal note, headache and vertigo are some of my favorite diagnoses to treat as they can resolve rapidly with proper care. The change in quality of life, after months or years of suffering, is truly life changing for many people.