What Causes Tension Headaches
At the base of the skull, there is a group of muscles called the suboccipital muscles. They can cause headache pain for many people. These four pairs of muscles are responsible for subtle movements between the skull and first and second vertebrae in the neck.
The suboccipital muscles may become tense and tender due to the following:
- Eye strain
- Grinding teeth
Pain from the suboccipital muscles commonly feels like a band wrapping around the head. Also, tension in these muscles may cause compression of a nerve that exits the base of the skull. This can trigger pain that wraps over the head and above the eyes.
Chiropractor Or Physical Therapist
Sometimes, in the case of chronic neck pain that causes frequent headaches, a chiropractor or physical therapist can help get relief from back of the head pain.
According to the Journal of Prolotherapy, physical therapy or spinal manipulation can help to get rid of agonizing neck pain and stop the pain spreading to your head. Chiropractors or physical therapists can help release pressure on the root of cervical nerves to get rid of the pain. This can also alleviate accompanying symptoms of neck pain and headaches like tingling in the arms or a burning sensation in the shoulder blades.17
Neck Pain With Headache Causes And Treatment
Headaches and neck pain go hand-in-hand for many reasons, a stiff or strangled neck most of the time leads to neck pain with a headache. These headaches are commonly called cervicogenic headaches. Knowing how to take care of such headaches caused by the sensitivity of nerves in the neck can help you a long way in avoiding other complications especially in the head and the region near the neck.
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Get Rid Of Your Old Pillow Or Mattress
Sleep should be a time for your body to rest and recharge. So be choosy about your sleeping equipment.
Finding the right mattress and pillow can be key to preventing a cervicogenic headache, Dr. Estemalik says. Do you wake up with neck pain or a headache? That could be a clue that you need to switch your pillow or mattress.
Find a pillow that keeps your neck in line with your back. The exact pillow type varies from person to person based on your sleeping position and body type. And follow Goldilocks advice about your bed: Not too hard or too soft. Replace old mattresses and pillows, since they lose their support after years of use.
Treating Neck And Shoulder Pain
Treatment of neck and shoulder pain depends on the underlying cause.
Heart attack, stroke, and other serious conditions often include emergency treatment. For most other situations, home remedies, physical therapy, and massage will bring improvement.
Some of the more serious situations that may require surgical treatment include:
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Treatment Options For Tension
Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and paracetamol are commonly used to treat tension-type headache. It shouldnt be necessary to take stronger medications.
Its important to discuss use of any drugs with your doctor if you are pregnant. Using painkillers more than twice a week can increase the risk of tension-type developing into chronic daily headache, and you should also speak to your doctor if you are regularly getting headaches.
As stress is a cause of tension-type headache, you may find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, avoid stressful situations as much as possible, and consider speaking to a counsellor or therapist.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
- You are experiencing the worst headache of your life.
- You have speech, vision, or movement problems or loss of balance, especially if you have not had these symptoms with a headache before.
- The headache starts very suddenly.
- The headache occurs with repeated vomiting.
- You have a high fever.
Also, call your provider if:
- Your headache patterns or pain change.
- Treatments that once worked are no longer helpful.
- You have side effects from medicines, including irregular heartbeat, pale or blue skin, extreme sleepiness, persistent cough, depression, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, cramps, dry mouth, or extreme thirst.
- You are pregnant or could become pregnant. Some medicines should not be taken when pregnant.
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When Is Headache And Neck Pain Serious
Immediate medical attention is advised in neck pain and headache associated with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain and numbness radiating down one or both arms
- Stiff neck with high fever and/or headache
- Headache triggered by coughing, sneezing, running, bending, straining with a bowel movement, or Valsalva maneuver
- Seizures, slurred speech, loss of balance and blurry vision
- Unintended weight loss or nausea
These symptoms may indicate serious underlying conditions such as aneurysms, meningitis, stroke, or tumor. Neck pain as a result of trauma to the base of the skull must be considered as an emergency and treated without delay.
Warning Signs Of More Serious Arm & Shoulder Problems
In some instances, shoulder pain and arm pain can indicate more serious problems. These problems might include cancer, fractures, infection, severe nerve compression and ankylosis spondylitis.
If there is cancer in the bones of the spine, this usually means metastases .
Fractures of the spine can be caused by a direct hit, fall, accident but sometimes can occur without trauma, called spontaneous fractures. Spontaneous fractures, usually can occur in elderly people with osteoporosis or those who may be taking steroid medications that weaken the bone.
Infections of the spine tend to occur if patients have a weakened immune system from any cause or medical condition. Sometimes infections of the spine can occur if there is an infection elsewhere in the body. People with spinal infections usually feel unwell and can have sweats and a fever.
Nerve compression, called myelopathy, where there is a dangerous compression of the spinal cord in the neck. Myelopathy could cause symptoms that might include, weakness or problems with coordination in the arms, hands, legs, or even feet.
Ankylosing spondylitis is progressive arthritis of the spine and can cause widespread inflammation, pain and stiffness throughout the spine.
Seek urgent and specialist medical advice if:
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A Physiological Problem Or A Forward Head Posture Problem
Because you are reading this article, it will be assumed that you know what forward head posture is, it is likely that if you been to a chiropractor or other health care provider and this problem may have been explained to you as a potential cause of your problem.
In December 2019, a randomized control trials results were published in the journal Medical Science Monitor examined the impact of Forward Head Posture on patients with tension headaches. Here are the summary learning points:
- Tension-type headache decreases the ability to concentrate and function during daily activities in affected patients.
- Most patients with Tension-type headache exhibit forward head posture.
- Various interventions have been proposed to resolve Tension-type headaches. However, research regarding the efficacy of these interventions remains lacking.
To address this concern, the researchers aimed to investigate the association between forward head posture and Tension-type headache and to evaluate the efficacy of various intervention methods on headache symptoms and other clinical variables in patients with Tension-type headache induced by forward head posture.
Three different treatments:
Interventions were conducted 3 times per week for 4 weeks.
Ask Dr Sabers: Can Spine Injury Cause Migraine Headaches
Migraine headaches are debilitating. Some migraine sufferers report that neck and back injuries increase the frequency of their migraines. Summit interventional spine specialist Dr. Sabers explains the connection between back pain and migraine headaches.
As an interventional spine specialist at Summit, says Dr. Sabers, I find that about 15 percent of my practice concerns neck pain with associated headache. There are approximately 20 different types of headache, including a migraine, and spine injury is a factor in the headache pain I treat.
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Why The Confusion Between Sinus Pressure And Migraines
Sinus pressure causes headaches, right? Sure, its possible. However, always thinking of the connection as being unilateral, or just going in that direction, can easily lead to misdiagnosis. Sometimes the headache is a sign of migraines, and sinus pressure is just one more symptom.
How can you determine if your sinus problems are actually migraine related? The American Migraine Foundation offers 3 diagnostic inquiries:
- Are the headaches disabling ?
- Are you nauseous during your sinus problems?
- Do you suffer from sensory sensitivity?
If even two of these three other symptoms are present, you have a greater than 90% chance of being a migraineur rather than simply having sinus headaches.
Why is this information important when it comes to seeking care for your sinus pressure? Quite frankly, it is because the success of care depends on knowing the underlying problem. You cant treat sinus issues and expect to feel better if you are actually suffering from migraines that have sinus pressure as one symptom.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic And Migraines
If the word chiropractor makes you nervous, we want to assure you that upper cervical chiropractic care is very different. Adjustments are precise, gentle , and only focus on the C1 and C2. Gentle adjustments may also last longer, which can make this a cost-effective form of care.
To learn more about upper cervical chiropractic care, contact a practitioner in your area. You may find that a gentle adjustment or two can have significant benefits for your health, including helping with migraines.
to schedule a consultation today.
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In The Cervical Spine When A Person Develops Anterior Head Carriage The Weight Of The Head And Neck Become Too Much For The Muscles To Support Them
In the illustration above the head and neck, when in an anterior position, can weigh as much as 42 lbs. In these cases, phasic muscles get recruited to help support the head and neck and phasic muscles are designed for gross motor movement. Ultimately, they tighten and fatigue much more quickly and that puts more tension on the base of the skull and more pull on the upper cervical spine. This can cause minor shifts in the cervical vertebrae and compression on nerves in the neck that route to the trigeminal nerve. The result is a migraine.
How is this condition treated for the best outcome?
It Doesnt Feel Like Other Headaches
Cervicogenic headaches have some unique traits that may clue you in. Cervicogenic headaches usually hurt on one side of the head, Dr. Estemalik says. They start around the base of your skull and radiate up one side.
Your neck may also give you some hints. A hallmark of a cervicogenic headache is a limited ability to move your neck or head, Dr. Estemalik explains. Your headache may get worse when you move your neck.
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How Is It Different From Migraine
Migraine is a primary headache disorder. Unlike CGH, there is no known cause for Migraine. While neck pain and stiffness can be a prodrome symptom of migraine, it is not necessarily an indication of CGH. Only about 18% of headache patients who report neck pain actually meet the criteria for CGH1. If it is present, sometimes the referred pain of CGH can be a migraine trigger. In that case, successful treatment should lead to fewer migraine attacks. Not all migraineurs experience CGH. Even if you are diagnosed with both disorders, one did not cause the other. Do not believe anyone who tells you that problems in your cervical spine are the cause of migraine attacks. There is no research to back up such a claim. However, some patients with CGH are misdiagnosed with migraine and treated for the wrong headache disorder for years. Since CGH does not respond to typical migraine treatments, it is very important to get an accurate diagnosis.
Further Reading: Symptoms And Conditions Of Craniocervical Instability
In this article, Symptoms, and conditions of Craniocervical Instability, Dr. Hauser has put together a summary of some of the symptoms and conditions that we have seen in our patients either previously diagnosed or recently diagnosed with Craniocervical Instability, upper cervical spine instability, cervical spine instability, or simply problems related to neck pain.
For many of these people, symptoms, and conditions extended far beyond the neck pain, radiating pain of cervical radiculopathy, headaches, TMJ, and possibly dizziness usually associated with problems in the neck. These peoples symptoms and conditions extend into neurologic-type problems that may include digestion, irregular cardiovascular problems, hallucinogenic sensations, vision problems, hearing problems, swallowing problems, excessive sweating, and a myriad of others.
I want to point out that the symptoms and conditions you will see described below can be caused by many problems. This article demonstrates that craniocervical instability and cervical neck instability can be one of them.
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Gentle Massage To Get Rid Of Neck Pain And Headache
Gently massaging the back of your neck and base of your skull can help to relax your neck muscles, release pressure from a pinched nerve, and give relief from headache pain.
Dr. William H. Blahd on WebMD recommends massaging the painful area between your shoulders, top of your neck, and back of your head for quick pain relief. This helps to increase blood circulation to the affected area and relieve pain naturally without using medication.15
You can also use essential oils in a massage oil to quickly get rid of that neck headache. Essential oils like peppermint, lavender oil, and eucalyptus oil are especially effective for neck pain and migraines.
How to use essential oils for neck pain and headache relief:
For other essential oils that you can use in the pain-relief massage blend, please read my article on the best essential oils for severe headaches.
When To Worry About Neck Pain With A Headache
Usually, theres nothing to worry but at times when you notice these conditions immediately consult your doctor.
- Having shoulder and neck pain with headache or pain that extends to the lower back.
- The presence of the condition for more than 2 weeks.
- When the condition is due to the result of an injury.
- Eye pain is a combination of headache and neck pain.
- Slurred speech and blur vision.
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What Is A Cervicogenic Headache
Have you ever woken up with a headache and a nasty crick in the neck? The two symptoms are probably related! A neck ache combined with a headache could indicate a cervicogenic headache.
Cervicogenic comes from “cervico,” meaning “neck,” and “genic,” meaning “relating to.” These headaches originate from the neck and by some definitions the spine.
What Does It Mean If Your Neck Hurts And You Have A Headache
It makes sense that neck pain would be involved in migraine, because of the disease process in the body, says Kumar. The trigeminal nerve complex is involved in most migraines, and the nucleus of the trigeminal nerve is actually located high in the back of the neck, in what we call the c1, c2, and c3 vertebrae, the highest vertebrae in the spine, she says.
The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sensations in the face and for functions like chewing and biting.
In migraine, those areas get sensitized the muscles in the neck can become tense and tight, she says.
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What Causes A Cervicogenic Headache
Any condition or disorder of the cervical spine or tissue can cause cervicogenic headaches. These include
- Whiplash or other neck injuries
- Spinal misalignment
- Elhers-Danlos syndrome
- Posture and other lifestyle factors
Modern life includes sitting in front of computers, driving, hand-held devices, and watching TVall of these activities create severe stress on our neck and shoulders. While we know we should take constant breaks from these activities, we often “forget!”
Holding our arms out in front of us and/or cocking our necks to see the screen properly, we put pressure on our neck and shoulders that they weren’t built to handle. This sets us up for muscle and joint strain and often leads to tension headaches. Over time, repetition of poor posture can weaken muscles that normally hold our necks in the correct alignment. When they weaken over time, the cervical bones can move around in ways that they shouldn’t, pinching, squishing, and generally wreaking havoc. Muscle spasms, also caused by long-term bad posture, can do the same thing.
Is Neck Pain A Symptom Of Migraine
Neck pain can be one of many symptoms experienced in migraine, and the neck pain is often in the same side as the headache, says Kumar. So, if a person has a right-sided headache during the migraine attack, they will have neck pain and tightness in the right side of the neck, she says.
Neck pain in migraine is especially common in people with chronic migraine, says Kumar. Chronic migraine is a headache occurring on 15 or more days every month for more than three months, according to the International Headache Society.
Almost 80 percent of people with chronic migraine will have neck pain as an associated symptom, says Kumar.
There is some debate about whether neck pain triggers a migraine attack or is a symptom. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Headache and Pain used electromyography to measure activity in the trapezius muscle during rest, mental stress, and physical activity in people with migraine compared with people with other types of headaches. Investigators concluded that neck pain was more likely a symptom of migraine than a trigger.
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