IS YOUR HEADACHE REALLY A NECK ACHE?
For many people, feelings of pain and tension start at the top of the neck.
As the pain worsens, it may spread to the back of the head, the temples, forehead or behind the eyes. Moving the neck or bending forward for a long time tends to make it worse.
This happens because the nerves in the upper part of your neck are connected to the nerves in your head and face. A disorder of the upper neck joints or muscles can cause referred pain to your head.
Any of the following points suggest that your neck may be causing the headache:
- Does the pain radiate from the back to the front of your head?
- Headache with dizziness or light-headedness
- Headache brought on or worsened by neck movement or staying in the same position for a long time
- Headache which always feels worse on the same side of your head.
- Headache eased by pressure to the base of the skull.
- Headache which persists after your doctor has checked for other causes.
HEADACHES FROM OTHER CAUSES
Emotional tension and anxiety can cause the muscles at the base of the head and jaw to become very tight, irritating the nerves and restricting blood flow. This produces a headache.
POSTURE – Think tall: chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and head level. Your neck should feel strong, straight and relaxed.
WORK – Avoid working with your head down for long periods. Stretch and change position frequently.
SLEEPING- Make sure you are using the correct pillow and in the correct position. Your physiotherapist can show you show.
RELAXATION – Recognise when you are tense. You may be hunching your shoulders or clenching your teeth without realizing it.
EXERCISE – Keep your neck joints and muscles flexible and strong with correct neck exercises.
HOW PHYSIOTEHRAPISTS CAN HELP
Physiotherapists are experts in posture and human movement. They will be able to determine if your neck is causing the headaches. Physiotherapist may use:
- Remedial exercise
- Postural assessment, correction and advice
- Relaxation therapy
- Laser, ultrasound, electrotherapy and heat treatment
Your Physiotherapist can also offer self-help advice on ways to correct the cause of headaches, such as practical tips for work and in the home, adjusting furniture, relaxation and exercise.