Neck pain and Headache
Neck Pain Causes
Multiple Vertebrae, ligaments binding bones together, and muscles to allow for mobility make up the complicated structure of the neck. Slouching shoulders as a result of modern living is a typical issue that leads to stiff necks, shoulders, and headaches. Longer durations of screen time, such as those spent on a phone or laptop, can put a lot of tension on the muscles in the neck, shoulder, and surrounding areas. Other factors that could be the source of your discomfort include whiplash, poor posture, arthritis, or even just tension. However, your neck and shoulder are the most typical sources of headaches. Cervicogenic headaches frequently have pain that begins at the base of the skull and travels to the front of the skull, pressure behind the eyes, and occasionally jaw stiffness.
A headache that originates in the neck is simply known as a “cervicogenic headache.” It is one of the most prevalent types of headaches, and although it can affect people of any age, individuals between the ages of 20 and 60 are the ones who experience it most frequently. Because they result from a basic underlying neck disease, typically accompanied by nerve irritation, cervicogenic headaches are frequently referred to as secondary headaches. The good news is that your headache can be reduced by treating your neck issue. According to research, cervicogenic headaches account for up to 22% of all clinically diagnosed headaches. The cervical vertebra in your upper neck are responsible for motions like flexing and extending your neck (looking up and down), as well as turning your neck by gazing left and right. They also support the skull and weight of your head. Any abnormality in the upper neck’s vertebral joints might restrict motion or impair fluidity, which can irritate nearby nerves. This may even apply to the cartilage discs between the vertebrae as well as the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that attach to the vertebra. Cervicogenic headache sufferers frequently have a history of neck injury, particularly whiplash, even though damage to the neck tissues can occur without a traumatic accident. Repeated or prolonged bad postures can similarly “damage” these structures over time. This condition’s pain is an illustration of referred pain. This is where a different type of discomfort, in this case neck pain, manifests. The skin covering the head, the forehead, the jawline, the back of the eyes, and the ears are all supplied by the same nerves that feed the upper neck, which is why this happens. Because of this, a cervicogenic headache may develop from pain referred from upper neck tissues or from stimulation of the nerves in this area to any of these areas. Additionally, the muscles in your upper neck, as well as the front and rear of your neck, may be the source of your headache. These muscles frequently refer discomfort to the side of the head and the temples. Trigger points can form in muscles due to muscle spasm, weakness, or overload brought on by prolonged poor posture, which can send discomfort to the head and face.
WHAT CAUSES THESE HEADACHES?
The most common cause of cervicogenic headache is activities that put too much strain on the upper joints of the neck. This can happen traumatizingly as a result of a particular incident (like whiplash or heavy lifting) or more frequently as a result of repetitive or prolonged activities like prolonged slouching, poor posture, lifting or carrying (especially in poor posture), excessive neck bending or twisting, working at a computer, or activities using the arms in front of the body (eg. housework).
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
- Headaches and neck discomfort that develops gradually when engaging in an activity that aggravates the neck’s tissues.
- Constant dull pain, typically behind the eyes or in the temple area, but occasionally also on top of the head, in the forehead, or around the ear. Usually, only one side of the head or face is painful, but occasionally, both sides can be bothered.
- Pain aggravated by neck position or movement Tenderness across the upper cervical joints and neck ache.
- Neck stiffness and trouble turning it.
- The upper back, shoulders, arms, or hands may also experience pain, pins and needles, or numbness, though this is less typical.
- Other symptoms that you may occasionally suffer include lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus (ear ringing), poor attention, an inability to carry out daily activities, and occasionally sadness.
- Cervicogenic headaches are not universal, however they can still occur in some people. It’s crucial to keep in mind that your neck joints might not be hurting when you’re at rest or moving around normally, but they might be painful or tender to the touch during a proper examination or when a physiotherapist “pushes” them to the limit of their range of motion.
CERVICOGENIC HEADACHES: HOW ARE THEY DIAGNOSISED?
To identify a cervicogenic headache, a thorough examination by a knowledgeable physiotherapist or physician is typically all that is required. Unfortunately, cervicogenic headaches cannot usually be diagnosed by X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. Cervicogenic headaches can occur with or without abnormal X-ray or scan results. Upon inspection, a physical therapist might discover:
- trigger points and increased neck, upper back, and shoulder muscular tightness.
- Deep neck flexor weakness.
- increased or excessive superficial neck flexor activation
- Localized discomfort in the neck and occiput (bottom of the skull), usually on one side, that can radiate to other parts of the head, including the forehead, orbital area (eyes), temples, or ears.
- Specific neck movements or prolonged postures might either cause pain to begin or make it worse.
- Neck movement resistance or restriction
- neck muscle tone changes, such as muscular spasms
- abnormal neck muscle sensitivity
HOW CAN PHYSIOTHERAPIST HELP?
Analgesics, anti-inflammatories, harsher opioid-based medications, and even nerve blocking injections may be effective in treating this form of headache, although they often only address its symptoms and not its basic underlying cause. The headache will eventually return unless the cause, which is the upper neck dysfunction, is treated and resolved. The therapy provided by the physiotherapist will concentrate on the soft tissue and joint constraints in the upper neck as well as regions like the front of the neck and upper back. Additionally, it could include some stretching and strengthening exercises for tight muscles.
Treatment for neck pain includes:
- Manipulations and mobilizations of the cervical spine (neck).
- Using myofascial release, a sort of deep massage, to loosen up tight muscles and tight tissues.
- To relieve constricted, tight muscles, use trigger point therapy.
- Acupuncture and dry needling.
- Exercises to strengthen the upper back and deep neck flexors.
- Posture correction, re-education of postural muscles, and mobilisation and manipulation of the thoracic spine (upper back).
- Electrotherapy for muscle relaxation and pain alleviation, posture taping, or bracing are all possible treatments.
You can take a few easy steps to lessen neck pain or prevent recurrence.
- Good posture reduces needless strain on the vertebral joints and supporting muscles, especially when using a phone, laptop, or computer while seated. Keep your head on top of your spine rather than jutting forward to reduce stiffness in your neck and shoulders.
- Ensure that your entire spine touches the chair while you sit in a completely supported position.
- Your laptop or PC’s top portion should be 24 to 30 inches away from your eyebrows.
- You shouldn’t be reaching for the mouse or keyboard with your arms. Your shoulders and neck muscles will be less stressed and under more pressure if the keyboard is closer to you.
- If you have been using your computer for longer than 90 minutes, take a rest.
- Consider using a standing desk.
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