Headaches can be a pain in the neck......
Most of us have experienced headaches at some stage. However, for a significant proportion of the population, headache, migraine or neck pain is a regular occurrence that interrupts daily life. Like most conditions there is a huge spectrum of headache types, each with different causes and requiring specific treatments. We often treat patients who have suffered from headaches for months or even years, which are in fact coming from their necks. This is referred to medically as a cervicogenic headache.
Problems with the joints, muscles or nerves in the upper neck can often refer pain into the head. The most common neck joints affected are the upper three cervical or neck joints (C0-3). These joints can become inflamed, stiff or occasionally move too much. Certain neck muscles can become weak and others overactive, creating a muscle imbalance which can add to the pain.
There are a number of signs and symptoms that can accompany a cervicogenic headache. These include:
Neck stiffness or a mild loss in the range of movement
Tenderness in the neck or at the base of the skull
Prolonged poor postures usually make the headache worse (eg. when the head is turned to one side)
Side locked: the headache is usually worse on one side of the head
How We Can Help
As headaches can be caused by many different factors, it is very important to get an accurate diagnosis. We can perform specific tests to determine if your neck is causing the headache. We will also take a detailed assessment and conduct a screening to rule out other underlying causes of headache. Research has shown that the most effective treatment for this headache involves mobilising the stiff joints, releasing tight muscles and performing specific strengthening exercises to address any muscle imbalances and poor postures. If your neck is contributing to your headache, we should be able to alter or relieve your symptoms almost immediately.