The Watson Technique Explained…

The Watson Headache® Approach involves a series of gentle pressures applied slowly to each of the upper three spinal segments.

It looks complicated, but our Specialist Physiotherapist  Carol Ellis will guide you through this treatment to produce the best outcome for you.


Relevancy of C1-3 Afferents

According to the Medical Model of Headache, temporary reproduction of typical head pain when examining upper cervical structures is a key diagnostic criterion of Cervicogenic Headache.2-6 However, whilst one can be very suspicious that temporary reproduction is diagnostic of Cervicogenic Headache, neuro-anatomical-physiological research has shown that reproduction alone is not a fallible criterion.7

Relevancy of C1-3 afferents in Headache or Migraine is only confirmed if, as the examination technique is sustained, the reproduced head pain lessens. The resolution time varies, and whist there are exceptions, ranges between 30 to 90 seconds. The ‘Reproduction and Resolution’ of typical head pain in this way, is a distinguishing characteristic of, and fundamental to, the Watson Headache® Approach.

It is widely recognised that the underlying disorder in Headache and Migraine is a sensitised Brainstem.

Recent groundbreaking (peer-reviewed publication) research by Dr Watson PhD,8 has shown that ‘Reproduction and Resolution’ of typical head pain in migraine patients DE sensitises the Brainstem.

The Watson Headache® Approach is the only cervical manual therapy approach scientifically validated to diminish the underlying disorder in Migraine.

In this way, the spinal segment at fault i.e. referring pain to the head can be identified precisely; the Watson Headache® Approach does not involve guesswork. This diagnostic accuracy is unparalleled in manual-cervical-therapy treatments.

Referral of head pain occurs when the relevant hypomobile segment is stressed by muscle spasm. Therefore, manual therapy treatments are often directed at the spasm, and not the trigger of the spasm, this explains why previous cervical treatments have been ineffective, or, provide temporary relief only.

An Abnormal Musculoskeletal Pattern

Dr Dean Watson, Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, has identified a previously unrecognised abnormal musculoskeletal pattern:

  • a subtle asymmetrical distribution of intra-discal pressure in the C2-3 disc triggering the muscle spasm

which in turn

  • stresses one or more of hypomobile OC1-C3 spinal segments,

which then

  • refers pain into the head and/or sensitising the Brainstem.

Others have coined this clinical pattern the ‘Watson Headache Chain Reaction’.

The Trigger

Crucially the Watson Headache® Approach focuses on the trigger for muscle spasm (often just treating – successfully – the trigger for the muscle spasm provides significant relief), which simultaneously removes the stress from the referring segment.

The Watson Headache® Approach is unerringly accurate – it is a comprehensive approach based on sound principles and fundamentals that, when fully understood and followed, is very successful.

Successful application of the Watson Headache® Approach relies heavily on skilled, experienced palpation.



Maynewater Lane, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 2AB | 01284 748200 |

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