If you suffer from persistent or recurring headaches, it may be that your neck is the culprit (and you may not even have pain!) This cause of headache has been commonly overlooked which has often resulted in patients suffering for many years.
Physios are experts in assessing and treating neck related headache. Headaches caused by the structures of the neck are often one-sided, with pain usually arising at the base of the skull and referring to the temple, forehead or eye region. However pain can be present in the eye/head region alone. Pain can be aggravated by neck movement or sustained postures and is often eased by manual pressure to the base of the skull.
It has been well demonstrated that structures in the neck can refer pain to the head. The nerves that start in the top of the neck (C1-C3) also provide sensation to the face and head. If these nerves are aggravated by stiff joints and muscles in the neck, they can cause pain in the head.
Our Physios will thoroughly assess your neck and headaches. They will ask specific questions to rule out other causes of headaches. They will then feel and assess the structures of your neck to decide if they may be causing your headache. If the neck structures are involved, we will find
- Tight and painful structures in your neck (joint and muscle)
- Pressure on specific structures of your neck will reproduce your head pain.
- A forward head posture and stiff mid back.
- Reduced motion in the upper joints of the neck.
- Reduced endurance in the deep muscles of the neck.
After correctly diagnosing the neck as the cause of headache, treatment can be quite straightforward for an experienced physiotherapist.
Physios help with the management of headaches by addressing the underlying aggravating factors. Physios may use:
- A combination of gentle manipulation of the neck joints
- Massage &/or dry Needling to reduce muscle tension & spasm
- Specific exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the neck and upper back can also be prescribed to prevent excessive tension from developing in the joints and soft tissues of the neck
- Advice concerning work desk ergonomics, postural correction
- Relaxation methods to help with stress management
Headaches do not have to be something that you live with on a day to day basis, so consult your Physio to discuss how you can prevent these from occurring.
Stretch of the Month
Flexion Stretch – Chin to Chest
- Gently bend your head forward while bringing your chin toward your chest.
- Stop when a stretch is felt in the back of your neck.
- Hold position for 15-30 seconds.
- Return to starting position. (Neck in midline position).
- Repeat above stretch 5 more times.