Headaches: Don’t forget the Neck!!!!
Unfortunately for some, suffering from a headache is almost a daily occurrence. From being a minor annoyance to forcing you to lie down and isolate yourself from light, sound and people. This can lead to affecting one’s mood, irritability, medication reliance. The result of this can be a decrease in work productivity and lost family and social time. All this makes it a tough life on you, your family and friends.
The term “headache” infers a continuous pain in the head so doesn’t it makes sense that the source of this headache should be from there? What if I told you that even though the pain is in the head, the cause of it can be from other areas of your body, in particular from the neck?
Headaches that originate from the neck are referred to as cervicogenic (cervical spine is the name of your neck). Many causes of these headaches in the neck are damage or strain to the joints, discs, ligaments and muscles. Damage to these structures triggers pain signals. These signals travel to your brain-stem (the base of the brain) which is then transmitted to your brain. Which we then interpret as a headache.
Damage to the structures above can be caused by:
- Poor posture: your sitting, standing and sleeping habits
- Stress: work and family/friends are the two biggest
- Whiplash: sports/motor car/bike/horse/falls are common causes
- Poor lifting techniques
- Poor ergonomics: at work and home
- Direct trauma
Common symptoms to look out for cervicogenic headaches are:
- Headaches made worse by movement of your neck or head
- Limitations in neck movement
- Unilateral (one-sided) headache pressure
- Frequently re-occurring
- Neck stiffness
- Tenderness at the base of the skull, especially when you dig your thumb in there.
- Temporary relief when applying pressure or massage to your neck and base of skull
If you suffer from one or more of these symptoms contact your local Chiropractor for an assessment and help.
The chiropractor’s role in neck headaches:
At Back To Front Chiropractic, we believe that accurate diagnosis of a headache is key to management and treatment. This is achieved via a thorough history of your headaches and complete assessment of the spine and head. Further tests such as x-rays, CT scans or MRI’s might be appropriate and are only taken if required.
Once we find out the underlying cause of the problem we tailor your treatment to you. Chiropractic treatment for cervicogenic headaches includes restoration of neck joint function. We assist this through chiropractic adjustments. This is supported by stretches and at home exercises, aimed to restore function to the joints and soft tissue structures of the neck. At home advice for avoiding damaging these structures is also given.
Tips and tricks at home:
Be mindful of your posture particularly at work or when sitting for prolonged periods. Implement breaks from a fixed posture every 20-30 minutes. Set a reminder on your computer or phone for every 20 minutes. Then get up and walk around the office or house for a minimum of 30 seconds. The Chiropractic Association of Australia (CAA) has produced the Straighten Up App to make this easier. Download for free via https://chiropractors.asn.au/resources/apps/straighten-up-app2.
Be careful of slumping forward, particularly while sitting and standing. Look at your home and office workstation and check for basic ergonomics. Is your chair good quality, does it have a lumbar support, is your monitor high enough, do your knees fit under the desk, is the mouse close at hand?
Evaluate your pillow. Is it supporting your neck or is it old and shabby? A memory foam contoured pillow compared to your $20 pillow can make a drastic difference in support.
Stress can be a big factor for some people and not always easily avoidable so implement some strategies to relieve this. Take time out for yourself during the day, take that long bubble bath or read that book. Anything that can help you reduce it will lessen the tension onto your neck.
Avoid straining yourself when lifting. Follow the simple techniques of lifting with bent legs and a straighter back. Minimize or plan ahead to limit lifting during the day. Take multiple trips with the grocery bags instead of one huge one.
Limit your amount of computer, tablet and phone use. We get stuck in this strained position for long periods of time, in fact, a lot longer than we all think. If this is not possible at least avoid being in those positions for too long and use breaks as previously stated.
These are but a few techniques to limit the strain placed on your neck joints and soft tissue structures. At the end of the day if you believe you suffer from neck headaches please contact your local chiropractor to see if they can help.