Is Your Headache a Pain in the Neck?

Did you know? Many headaches are caused by neck problems. The term for these types of headaches is “cervicogenic.” The joints, discs, ligaments, and muscles contain nerve endings that can refer pain to the head. Although neck related headaches are most common at the base of the skull, your pain can also be felt in the face, forehead, eyes, temples, and even the upper back and shoulders.

If your headache is accompanied by a feeling of stiffness, tenseness, or decreased motion in your neck, upper back, or shoulders, there is probably a neck-related component to your headaches. You should see a physical therapist for an evaluation.

Here’s what we will do:

  • Assess the motion of each of your neck (cervical) joints – Your cervical spine has seven vertebrae – each “segment” has a disc and facet joints, along with the ligaments that hold it all together. We can often find a problem at one or two of these segments. The treatment for this type of problem involves mobilization of the stiff segment.
  • Assess the muscles of your head, neck, and upper back. The muscles that control rotation, side bending, head tilting, looking up and down, etc… can get out of balance – especially when repetitive motion, static postures, or abnormal posture is involved. The treatment for muscle imbalance involves myofascial release, manual stretching, and very specific muscle exercises.
  • Assess your posture and lifestyle – Good alignment of the head and neck will minimize the forces on your neck structures. Poor posture, especially when sitting for prolonged periods, is one of the most common causes of neck related headaches and The treatment for poor posture is exercise and education and, sometimes, assistive devices, or a change in your chair or work station.
Neck Pain Treatment

Medication can help headache pain temporarily, but unless you get to the root cause of neck related headaches, you are only treating the symptoms. Our physical therapists are skilled at headache evaluation and treatment. We can help your physician assess whether neck treatment would be of benefit.