Can your neck be the cause of your headaches?



Introduction


Have you ever experienced this throbbing kind of headache which doesn’t go whatever you do after your hectic day at work? I am sure most of us go through it but can your neck be the reason why you have this throbbing headache? I say yes!!


What are your neck / cervical region made up of?


Our neck or cervical region is made up of 7 cervical vertebras named C1 to C7. These vertebras are stacked on one another; our 1st two cervical vertebrae are very unique in nature and function, they help us to move our neck up and down and rotate sideways. In between these vertebras there are nerve roots which arise from the spinal cord, the C1-C3 nerves relay pain signals to the head and neck, any irritation to at this level can be the cause for referred pain to the base of the skull (occiput) and/or eyes {1}.


What causes these headaches?


The sensitized nerve root along with the brainstem is located in the upper three cervical vertebrae and is important in the interaction of sensory nerves and the sensation of pain. Hence any irritation of the part of the brainstem radiates pain from the upper neck to the head and face areas.


An injury or disorder at this level will send signals to the head, perceived as pain. In most cases pain is felt with sustained posture that causes overuse of the muscles and joints of the upper neck.


People sitting for prolonged periods may have a tendency in keeping their neck in forward posture or chin poke position this causes improper mechanical load and irritation at the upper cervical vertebras.


What type of headaches are they? What can you experience?


The symptoms of these headaches are moderate to mild and intense pain. Patients will feel deep, throbbing type of pain and may appear on both sides of the head. It will start at the neck, and move towards the head and facial regions. These headaches can last from hours to days depending on severity, and come as irregular or constant attacks. Additionally, the headache will be triggered by neck movement and sustained posture, some people may feel pain while coughing and sneezing.


Other signs of these headaches include sharp pulsating pain near the eye, forehead, and side or back of the head, difficulty swallowing stiffness in the neck associated with the feeling of nausea and vomiting and dizziness {1}.


How to manage them?



When it comes to managing these headaches one should focus on activation of neck or upper cervical muscles along with your shoulder blade and upper back muscles. Corrective exercises to improve acquired postures such as forward headache or chin poke postures. Deep tissue release or trigger point release therapy to the tighter muscles around the neck and upper back region.




Strengthening exercises with the resistive band will help to maintain the strength in the shoulder and shoulder blade muscles which will absorb the mechanical stress coming to the cervical region.


There is nothing like ideal posture breaking your postures frequently and avoiding sustained activities is the key to avoid improper mechanical loading on your neck or your entire spine.


‘Moving your body is a form of a self-care, it’s not selfish it’s essential’- Natalie Garay: The Pilates Mama


Reference-


1] Page, Phil. “Cervicogenic headaches: an evidence-led approach to clinical management.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 6,3 (2011): 254-66.



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