Neck Problems Can Cause Headaches
There are many different types of headaches with the most common being muscle tension headaches. Muscle tension headaches usually begin with muscle tension that originates in the shoulders and / or in the neck. In fact, muscle tension in the neck and upper back is a common trigger for migraine headaches as well.
Neck injuries (old or recent) and stress have the potential to irritate joints and inflame soft tissues including muscles, tendons and ligaments. Irritation and inflammation cause local muscle spasm in the neck which creates tension on the thin layer of muscle that covers the skull. When the muscles that cover the skull are tense, you are likely to experience a muscle tension headache.
For most patients, the source of neck pain and upper back pain and the subsequent muscle tension is bio-mechanical, meaning that the pain originates from joints that are dysfunctional and are either restricted from their full range of motion or are moving abnormally. Restricted or abnormal joint motion is typically associated with either scar tissue build up or muscular imbalances or both.
Patients frequently injure their necks and upper backs from repetitive stress, bad posture and auto accidents. These injuries damage the joints of the spine and strain the muscles that move and support the neck or strain the ligaments that provide stability to the spine. These types of injuries commonly cause headaches in addition to neck pain and tightness and pain between the shoulder blades.
Muscle tension headaches can be caused by misaligned joints in the neck or upper back or from the constant tension of spasmed muscles that attach into the neck and head. Since there are multiple causes of headaches related to the neck it is important to have your headache diagnosed.
Headache and neck pain relief options usually begin with conservative therapy. Since most cases of headaches and neck pain are bio-mechanical, chiropractic care is very effective. In my practice, headache and neck pain relief comes from a combination of chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, ice packs, stretching and exercising. The success of treatment is dependent on consistency and follow up, treatment that is delivered in a “hit and miss” schedule will most likely fail or only provide short-term relief versus long term results.
Headache and neck pain diagnosis includes the doctor having an understanding of the patient’s injury history and an accurate, focused examination. In some cases, x-rays or MRI may be necessary in order to rule out more dangerous conditions before treatment can begin – but this rarely happens. Since most cases of headaches and neck pain are due to bio-mechanical causes, these issues usually reveal themselves during the exam and history. So just be aware neck problems can cause severe muscle tension headaches, even Migraine Headaches.
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