It is very common for neck pain and headaches to occur in tandem. But why?
Let’s talk about it.
First, it’s important to know that headaches are among the most commonly occurring ailments in the world. More than half of women and a third of men report having a tension headache at some point.
So, if you are suffering with headaches, just know that you are not alone.
Second, there are different type of headache. Some of these headaches will accompany neck pain and some won’t.
Tension Headaches are slow-building and neck pain often go along with the headache. Fatigue, stress and muscle strain often underly tension headaches.
Cervicogenic Headache literally means, “a headache caused by the neck.” As the name suggests, Cervicogenic headaches are caused by dysfunction of the bones, muscles and nerves in the neck. BTW, cervical means neck.
Migraines are generally more complicated than other headaches. Migraines often present in 4 phases.
The Prodrome phase can start up to 24 hours before the migraine and may include food cravings, fluid retention, increased urination, mood changes and uncontrolled yawning.
The Aura involves a sensation of seeing flashing or bright lights.
The headache is often a severe throbbing sensation on one side of the head and may include sensitivity to light, increased pain with movement coughing, sneezing or nausea and vomiting.
The Postdrome is a general feeling of exhaustion at the end of the migraine that may last up to a day.
The good new is that most of these headaches respond very well to chiropractic care, exercise and in some cases a modification to your diet.
But, there some cases that an immediate trip to your local emergency room is in order. If you have a headache that accompanies any of the following symptoms, you should immediately go to your local ER for evaluation and treatment:
- Loss of consciousness
- Vomiting that will not stop
- Loss of vision
- Pain lasting more than 72 hours
- Presence of unusual symptoms
- An intense “thunderclap” sensation in your head
- Weakness or numbness of the face or arms
- Slurred speech
- Stiff neck and fever
I will assume if you are still reading this that you do not have one of the red flag symptoms listed above.
Good news, you are most likely a candidate to get help from chiropractic care. Let me explain.
Your neck, or cervical spine, consists of 7 bones that stack on top of each other and house the spinal cord and nerves that connect the brain with the rest of the body and allow the brain to have a “command and control” function over your body. Muscles provide stability and create movement in the neck and head. Under normal conditions, all 7 bones in your neck are freely moveable, however there are conditions that cause one or more bones to become stuck. When this happens, you may start to have pain in your neck and/or head.
The solution to this problem is a series chiropractic adjustments and retraining of the muscles responsible for stability and movement of the area.
But what causes this dysfunction, you might ask?
Here are some of the known causes of neck pain and headache:
Your car: The way that you sit in your car can create a huge strain on your neck and shoulders. You should be able to sit upright and have good support for your back and neck. Your seat should be upright and not reclined back and your low back should be against the seat. So it is important that your seat is close enough that you can reach the peddles and still have your low back against the seat.
Your phone: Looking down at your phone puts a lot of stress on your neck and as a society, we spend an awful lot of time looking down at our phones. Hours per day in fact.
Your work: Sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours per day is very difficult on your spine, especially your neck. Having your computer monitor either too high or too low increases that stress. If you have trouble seeing, you may crane your neck to get closer to the screen which puts even more strain on your neck.
Your sleeping position: You spend 8 hours per night sleeping. Right? You should. Sleep is important. How you sleep can put a lot of strain on your neck. The worst position for you to sleep in is on your stomach. I can tell a stomach sleeper by a simple 5 second examination of their neck. Back and side are the best sleeping postures with adequate support for the neck.
Past injuries: Car accidents and sports injuries can lead to damage of the structures in the neck that, while healed, may have left you with a weakness or a proclivity towards pain in your neck.
Emotional Stress: Emotional stress from work, family, or friends tends to cause tightness in the trapezius muscle or the muscle that attaches your head to your shoulders and you guessed it, chronic muscle tightness can lead to dysfunction and pain in your neck and headache.
If you are ready for a safe and effective solution to your neck pain and headaches, we would love to help you.