What are neck related headaches?
A Neck Related Headache is a headache that originates from the neck and shoulders. There are many different types of headaches but neck related headaches are some of the more common reasons for headache.
Some common types of neck related headaches are as follows:
- Tension headache: This is a headache that is caused by tension in the muscles of the neck and base of the skull. These usually cause a headache that is at the back and top of the skull
- Cervicogenic headache: Again this could be caused by a number of different issues, but the name suggests that they originate from the cervical spine. For example you could have stiffness in one of the joints of the upper spine (cervical spine), which in turn is resulting in headache symptoms.
- Migrane: Usually involves other symptoms such as nausea, photo-sensitivity and lethargy.
What can cause your Neck Related Headache?
The muscles of your neck are an intricate collection of both larger and smaller muscles. All of these can cause pain and stiffness when they are overused, injured or positionally compromised through your daily life. Weakness may also be a reason for muscle related headaches which is why it is very important to have your headache properly diagnosed by a Physiotherapist. The diagnosis and root cause of pain will determine the pathway taken to avoid those headaches returning.
Joint dysfunction is one of the most common causes of neck related headaches. Dysfunction can be either joint stiffness, or even joint laxity (ie: they move too much). The joints will transfer this issue to the related nerves and cause headache symptoms further up the chain. There are many joints and joint surfaces in the neck, however the most commonly involved are the
- Atlanto-occipital joint (O-C1)
- Atlanto-axial joint (C1/2)
Nerves of the head and neck can cause headaches in different areas of the skull. Most commonly the occipital nerve is the culrpit. This will cause tension feelings and pain in the back of the skull and base of the neck/skull. There are many other nerve pathways that can be involved, most of which can be relieved quite quickly with Physiotherapy treatment.
How we may treat it.
- Diagnose the cause of the pain and what area is the likely cause of your headache
- Carefully choose which methods of treatment will suit your pain and condition
- If the condition allows for it, we may perform some soft tissue work on your back and neck to loosen the area.
- Release and restore function to the problem area.
- Ensure full strength is maintained in the arm and if it is not, prescribe exercises to restore function to normal. Exercise prescription is crucial to prevent the return of symptoms.
- Monitor symptoms in order to ensure it does not return
- Prescribe exercises to prevent it happening again