PHYSIOTHERAPIST Damien Cummins has racked up about 5000 hours treating those with head and neck pain.
Having opened The Newcastle Headache Clinic five years ago within his Mayfield business The Physio Joint, Mr Cummins is keen to develop a centre of excellence for treating patients suffering head and neck pain.
"I'm beginning to talk to neurologists and I have a close connection with a pain specialist who deals with people who have whiplash as well as neurologists dealing with those with concussion," he says. "I'd like to have a centre for excellence in the community where there is a really good service for treating migraine, headache and neck pain. There is not really many multi-disciplanery teams who work together as far as neurologists, brain specialists, physios with specialties in vertigo, dizziness and migraine."
Raised in Raymond Terrace, Mr Cummins was interested in being a sports physiotherapist from a young age, drawn to the glamour aspect of it and, he laughs, a lofty dream of being a physio for the Australian Cricket Team. After high school, he obtained a degree in physiotherapy from the University of Newcastle and began practising. After 15 years he began to specialise in spine treatment and gained qualifications in spinal treatment using the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy. He also did post graduate headache training through the Watson Headache Institute in Sydney.
While he is still a general physio, Dr Cummins says the majority of his patients have neck and head pain.
He uses specific techniques to diagnose his patients and says he can tell after one to two visits if their neck is a reason for their headaches and migraines.
"They are subtle sustained pressures to the neck combined with repeated movements in specific directions looking to reproduce and resolve familiar head pain during the application of the pressures," he says. "The key factor is when we press on their neck we can produce their pain but if we sustain the pressure at certain angles you can see the pain melt away, which is wonderful."
Within four treatment he expects at least a 30 per cent improvement in symptoms - no matter how chronic the pain. If patients they don't show signs that movement is improving or stiffness is changing, "it is unlikely that we can help them," he says. The clinic then recommends an alternate pathway within the mainstream medical framework.
For those patients he can assist, he aims for an improvement of up to 80 per cent and teaches patients self-treatment techniques with an emphasis on stretches and movements.