With Physiotherapist Chris Davies
Although there are many causes of headaches, issues related to the upper cervical spine or upper neck can have a role to play in certain headaches more commonly known as “tension” headaches. These headaches can originate from changes to the tissues in the upper neck such as muscle tightness/fatigue and irritation to other soft tissues including the facet joints. It will be typically felt more on one side of the head and will generally commence as discomfort in the neck. The pain can then refer to the top or even over the eyebrow or behind the eye. However, with regards to all headaches there are also many other factors which can influence the strength and frequency of the pain. These include;
– Poor sleeping patterns
– Being generally run down
– An increase in stress associated with work, family, relationships, financial pressures to name a few
– A lack of exercise or a change in lifestyle habits
What is also common held belief is a relation to posture and associated neck pain and headaches. Although this is a common held belief in our society, research continues to draw fairly weak relationships between posture and pain in this area (Richards et al, 2016). Why? I firmly believe that we need a “soup” of factors contributing to neck related headaches. If sitting down at a computer all day is compounded with additional “load” such as stress, poor sleep and feeling run down, then there will be a good chance of developing pain in this area. Posture is still a factor, but maybe not as big as what we think.
So what can we do once we have a headaches originating from the neck? Pain in this area will generally resolve in anywhere from a few days to 1-2 weeks with simple management strategies.
These can include;
- Hands on therapy to muscles in the neck can ease tension and relax the area.
- Gentle movements of the neck without any vigorous stretching. Keeping the neck stiff and liiting its movement is not recommended and can lead to over protective behaviours and physical guarding of the area.
- Improve quality of sleep or change sleeping patterns.
- Change posture every 20-30mins if on computer all day. Get up and walk around the office or gently move neck side to side.
- Incorporate relaxation techniques into your day such as mindful breathing exercises or taking a walk in a quiet area.
- Exercise more. It has been shown to be beneficial for muscle heath but it also helps stress levels and improves mood.
Headaches are one of the most limiting pains that we can experience. The quicker we can address what is causing this pain, the faster the pain will resolve.
Chris is in clinic every Saturday
Bookings only on 9997 2121
Richards K, Beales D, Smith A et al (2016) Neck posture and their association with biopsychosocial factors and neck pain in Australian adolescents. Journal of Physical Therapy. 96(10) 1576-1587