Headaches can be extremely painful, and effect most aspects of your daily life, from simple things like trying to fall asleep, working at your computer, and driving, to more stressful physical activity like exercising. There are many causes of headaches, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll discuss the most common forms of headache, which are due to problems in the neck, how to diagnose these conditions, as well as your treatment options and how to get headache relief.
There are so many causes of headaches that it would be impossible to list them all here. If you suspect that your headache is caused by a chronic disease, an infection or if you have a high temperature (fever), then you should consult your General Medical Practitioner or local hospital as soon as possibe to get to the root cause.
For someone who is otherwise healthy and has no current disease or infection, the most common cause of a headaches is a problem in the neck. This includes Tension Headaches caused by injured muscles or stress induced muscular knots, triggerponts or spasm, or the headache is due to irritation of the internal structures of your spine, like the spinal (facet) joints, intervertebral discs or nerves, in which case we call it a Cervicogenic Headache.
By far the most common cause of headache visits to a Chiropractor is due to excessive neck stress from the following:
As a general rule of thumb, Tension Headaches from soft tissue problems in the neck cause short term pain, hours to days, and are gone when the stress subsides. When a headache due to a neck cause has been going on for weeks, months or years it’s generaly spinal in origin, a Cervicogenic Headache. Quite simply, muscles don’t usually cause pain for prolonged periods of time, but spinal problems nearly always do. Muscular neck problems don’t directly cause internal cervical spinal problems, but if you have a spinal problem you will almost certainly have an associalted muscle spasm, your body’s natural muscular response to the spinal condition.
When headaches have been around for weeks or longer, be sure to to shift your focus away from the muscles (Tension Headache) and get your spine assessed by a Chiropractor or Neurologist, the spinal and nerve focussed practitioners for a Cervicogenic Headache.
There are 4 pillars to making the correct Headache diagnosis from a neck problem:
There are lots of different soft tissue (muscle) practitioners in health care, but not many spinal focused practitioners. If your muscular diagnosis is not responding well to treatment, or If your diagnosis is uncertain and needs an X-ray or MRI scan to further understand your lower back pain, make sure you get help from a Chiropractor and/or Neurosurgeon.
The treatment you receive for your neck related Headache should be 100% dependant on the cervical (neck) diagnosis that was made. There are many treatments worldwide for this type of pain, but the procedures mentioned below are the most used, have the highest success rate, and are backed by the most science.
As mentioned in the diagnosis section above, due to the nature of spinal conditions almost always causing soft tissue spasm around the problem area, spinal focussed practitioners will often perform one or more of the above mentioned soft tissue procedures in conjunction with the cervical spinal treatment. However, if the spinal problem is successfully treated, the body would have no need to hold those surrounding muscles in spasm, and the soft tissues will almost always settle down on their own, without any direct treatment.