The neck is often misunderstood or overlooked as a significant contributor to headache and migraine disorders. The following outlines how YOUR neck could be impacting YOUR body and causing YOUR problems.
1. Referred pain
Referred pain is a situation where a problem (or pain) in one area of the body is felt elsewhere. A good example of this is when people having a heart attack feel pain in their left arm or jaw. The reason for this is due to nerves from two areas crossing paths, confusing the brain as to where the pain message is coming from! Similarly, during a headache episode, pain felt in the head can be referred pain originating from the neck!
The top three vertebrae in the neck and the nerves that come from this area, actually mix with the nerves that come from the head, in an area of the brain called the brainstem. This means any problems such as pain and stiffness can be ‘transferred’ into head pain or a headache!
3. Neck Trauma
Injuries that affect the neck like whiplash, concussion or falls, may result in an increase in headaches. Even if there is a reasonable amount of time between the injury and the headaches developing, the process starts in the neck and can gradually start a headache process.
4. Neck Stress
Even without an injury, our current lifestyle, dominated by screens, can place significant stress on your neck. This is particularly so if your neck muscles are not strong enough to cope with the load you are placing on them. You guessed it – this overload of stress could be the beginning of your headache issue.
Finally, we all know it! How could we forget our Mum’s regularly encouragement to ‘sit up straight’ as we slouched over our homework? Even if we start out with good intentions, there will be times of the day where we find ourselves slumped over, which in itself is OK. When it’s combined with lots of screen time or an old injury, that’s when it can lead to ‘dysfunction’ and headaches.
If you are a headache or migraine sufferer, a comprehensive assessment of your neck by a headache/migraine physiotherapist, such as Watson Headache® practitioner, can be life changing in overcoming your problem.
Practitioners at Sydney Headache and Migraine Centre are ready to help.