Dr Dean Watson PhD

Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

Advancing the Role of Cervical Afferents In Primary Headache For Individuals Experiencing and Health Professionals Managing Headache and Migraine

Dean's Vision...

… is that a skilled examination of the upper neck is genuinely accepted as a legitimate, routine practice when investigating headache and migraine conditions.

Dean is the Founder of the Watson Headache® Approach which is now recognised internationally for its unparalleled diagnostic accuracy and uncomplicated innovative clinical reasoning.

Dean's Bio

Dr Dean Watson PhD, Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, graduated in 1976 with Dip Tech Physio, subsequently with Grad Dip Adv Manip Ther (Hons), Master Manip Ther (University of South Australia), culminating with a PhD in 2017 from Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia.

Dean’s PhD investigated the role of cervical afferents in migraine, which for the first time demonstrated a manual cervical intervention (the Watson Headache® Approach) ameliorating the underlying disorder in migraine.

Since 1990, Dean has treated headache and migraine conditions exclusively, accumulating over 33000 hours of clinical experience with over 8500 patients. From this experience the Watson Headache® Approach has evolved. Dean has taught and presented internationally on numerous occasions since 1997, the Approach having been taught to over 4000 practitioners in 25 countries.

Dean has published in Cephalalgia and Headache, the premier, peer reviewed headache publications. He remains an active clinician, researcher, educationalist, and author. Dean is currently an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of South Australia.

Current Positions



Degree of Doctor Of Philosophy 2016 (Thesis)

Cervical Afferents in Primary Headache: An investigation of the potential role of cervical nociceptors in sensitising the trigemino-cervical nucleus in primary headache. Murdoch University Research Repository.

Master of Applied Science in Manipulative Physiotherapy 1990 (Thesis)
Cervical Headache: An investigation of natural head posture and upper cervical flexor muscle performance
Journal  Publication:

Watson DH, Drummond PD. Head Pain Referral During Examination of the Neck in Migraine and Tension-Type Headache. Headache 2012; 52:1226-1235

Watson DH, Drummond PD. Cervical Referral of Head Pain in Migraineurs: Effects on the Nociceptive Blink Reflex. Headache 2014; 54:1035-1045

Watson DH, Drummond PD. The Role of the Trigemino Cervical Complex in Chronic Whiplash Associated Headache: A Cross Sectional Study. Headache 2016; 56: 961-975

Watson DH, Trott PH. Cervical Headache: An Investigation of Natural Head Posture and Upper Cervical Flexor Muscle Performance. Cephalalgia 1993; 13: 272-284

Watson DH, Cervicogenic Migraine? Case Study Manual Therapy 1995;1:51-52

Luedtke K, Boissonnault W, Caspersen N, Castien R, Chaibi A, Falla D, Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Hall T, Hirsvang JR, Horre T, Hurley D, Jull G, Krøll LS, Madsen BK, Mallwitz J, Miller C, Schäfer B, Schöttker-Königer T, Starke W, von Piekartz H, Watson D, Westerhuis P, May A, International consensus on the most useful physical examination tests used by physiotherapists for patients with headache: A Delphi Study. Manual Therapy, 2016 June, Volume 23, Pages 17–24

Janani AS, Pope KJ, Fenton N, Grummett TS, Bakhshayesh H, Lewis TW, Watson DH, Whitham EM, Willoughby JO. Resting cranial and upper cervical muscle activity is increased in patients with migraine. Clin Neurophysiol. 2018 Sep;129(9):1913-1919.

Book Chapters:

Watson DH. Cervicogenic Headache: Diagnostic Criteria in Practice. Bessler, Johannes et al (Editors) Manual Therapy Expert Knowledge the best focus article of 2012 -2016. 2018 Georg Thieme Verlag KG Deutschland: pgs 2010 -2015

Watson DH, Trott PH. Cervical Headache: An Investigation of Natural Head Posture and Upper Cervical Flexor Muscle Performance. Grieve’s Modern Manual Therapy. Boyling JD and Palastanga N (eds) Churchill Livingstone. Edinburgh

Conference Proceedings:

Watson DH, The Continuum of Headache. Moving in on Pain. Shacklock MO (ed) 1995 Butterworth-Heinemann Sydney p 53-63

Physiotherapy Publication:

Physio First Summer 2004: In Touch ‘The Medical Model of Headache… and along comes Cervicogenic Headache’

Physio First, Summer 2018 – Quality Private Physiotherapy: In Touch ‘Alternating Headache: C2-3 Guilty or Not?’

External Research

Luedtke, K et al (including Watson DH). International consensus on the most useful physical examination tests used by physiotherapists for patients with headache: A Delphi study. Manual Therapy 2016 23:17-24

Pilling, M. A., Davidson, I., Todd, C., Crooks, K., & Newington, L. A pre-test, post-test intervention study (with embedded waiting list control) to assess the feasibility (efficacy; acceptability; and methodology) of mobilization of C0-C3 cervical segments to reduce headache in migaineurs. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation 10.17863.

  • A clinical trial assessing the effectiveness of the Watson Headache® Approach for migraine sufferers. *Please Note: Whilst permission was given by the Watson Headache® Institute to undertake this research,  the Approach was not strictly adhered to.

Collaborative Research

The Watson Headache® Institute & University of South Australia are undertaking collaborative research led by Dr Dean Watson PhD (Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist) & Dr Julie Walters PhD (School of Health Sciences). This research involves both qualitative and quantitative research: Part 1 & 2 – Language of Migraine: What Should Migraine Be Called?; Migraine: The Lived Experience (An Anonymous Survey); The Art of Migraine A Single-­arm, Pre­ Post­ Test Pilot Study; The Effect of Physiotherapy Assessment of the Neck on Pupil Dilation in Adults with Migraine with Aura, Cluster Headache and Post ­Traumatic Headache; and Case Study Series involving an international collaboration of physiotherapists committed to actively contribute to the research needed to help individuals living with headache associated conditions. Each in their clinical practice, sees a large number of people living with headache. We list only after review and approval by the University of South Australia Research Human Ethics Committee. Enquiries are received in the strictest confidence. Please click for more information.


Highest quality publication by a PhD Student – Dr Mary Lee Sparling Prize in Psychology Research 2013

In recognition of outstanding efforts in research publication Watson DH & Peter D. Drummond PhD Head Pain Referral During Examination of the Neck in Migraine and Tension-Type Headache Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain Volume 52, Issue 8, pages 1226–1235, September 2012.

Guest Speaker







For You If Are You Living With Headache, Migraine or Related Conditions?
For You If You Are a Health Professional Managing Headache, Migraine, or Related Conditions?
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