Is your headache coming from your neck?

Headaches due to neck problems

Headaches that are due to dysfunction in the neck region are termed “Cervicogenic Headaches”. You can also suffer tension headaches due to general tension from stress and strain in the neck and shoulder region but the symptoms may be slightly different.

What are the symptoms of cervicogenic headache?

  • Usually the headaches are on one side – the side of the neck with the problem, but can also be felt at the back of the skull in the occipital region, over the temples or above the eye/s
  • Pain can be anything from mild to severe aching with possible associated neck pain
  • Can have a gradual or sudden onset
  • Can be recurrent or persistent over long periods – especially if neck dysfunction is not resolved
  • Usually has associated neck muscular tension and limited neck movements
  • Can be aggravated by neck movement/strain, muscle tension, driving, typing etc

What is actually happening to cause the pain?

  • Often there can be irritated joints in the neck causing inflammation and irritation to surrounding musculature and nerves.
  • Irritated joints or mild joint ‘sprains’ can be very common and easily treated and managed with a variety of different methods
  • Most often the irritation to the joints is temporarily and completely reversible.

What to do?

See your Osteopath to have a proper examination and diagnosis of the headache

  • Your Osteopath will take a history and carefully examine you to make sure that the diagnosis is correct and that the headache is indeed being caused by structures in the neck and not a result of something else
  • If your are suffering cervicogenic headache your Osteopath will probably, if it is safe to do so, apply gentle techniques to associated structures in and around the neck that may be contributing to the headache or have become tight and spasmed in response to the headache.
  • Your Osteopath will give you instructions on how to manage your headache.
  • Your Osteopath will help to identify the cause of the headache and prescribe you specific exercises and or stretches to avoid reoccurrence of the problem.
  • Your Osteopath can help educate you on good posture and ergonomics with exercise and in your daily life especially when working on the computer.
  • If it is present, your osteopath may suggest methods to control inflammation around joints or muscles, such as ice, natural and pharmaceutical anti- inflammatory medications. Analgesics may also be helpful. (These should only be prescribed by and used under direction from a health professional)
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