Neck 2

Neck Injuries

Article by John Miller

What's Causes Cervicogenic Headache?

Your neck headache originates from a variety of musculoskeletal and neurovascular structures. These structures include the upper three neck joints, C2/3 disc, spinal cord coverings, and neck muscles. Dysfunction in these areas can trigger pain signals that travel to your trigeminocervical nucleus (TCN) in your brainstem. This information is then transmitted into your brain and interpreted as a headache (Bogduk 2003).

Upper Neck Joints

cervicogenic headache

The most likely source of your neck headache is a dysfunction of your upper neck joints. Your neck muscles or nerves become involved from pain signals that travel to your trigeminal nucleus in your brainstem, where you interpret the pain signals as a neck headache.

The most common cause of a neck headache is the dysfunction of your upper three neck joints. The most common neck joints involved are your:

  • atlantooccipital joint (O-C1),
  • Atlanto-axial joint (C1/2), and
  • C2/3 cervical spine joints.

In simple terms, your neck joints can cause a neck headache or pain if they are either too stiff or move too much (e.g. wobbly and unsupported by weak muscles) or locked in an abnormal joint position, e.g. a locked facet joint or poor neck posture. Once your neck joint becomes stressed and painful, the pain signals refer to the trigeminocervical nucleus in your brainstem. You start to feel a neck headache or, in some cases, face pain!

Your neck and headache physiotherapist can assess and correct neck joint dysfunctions that result in a neck headache. Their professional diagnosis and treatment are essential for neck headache sufferers.

Neck Muscles

Your neck and shoulder blade muscles that originate from your neck will cause pain if they are overworking, knotted or in spasm. Some of your neck muscles overwork when protecting injured neck joints. Other neck muscles become weak with disuse—this further demands your overworking muscles resulting in muscle fatigue-related symptoms. Your deep neck flexors are frequently weak or lack endurance. Your neck muscles work best when they have healthy resting tension, length, strength, power and endurance.

Your skilled physiotherapist assesses and helps you correct any muscle imbalances that result in a neck headache.

Cervical and Occipital Nerves

Nerves in your upper neck may become pinched by extra bony growths, e.g. arthritis, disc bulges or swelling. The results can result in nerve irritation or a reduction in the neural motion known as neuromechanosensitivity or abnormal neurodynamics. Irritation of your upper neck structures refer to pain messages along the nerves and cause your headache. In simple terms, your neck is the "switch", nerves are the "power cords", and your headache is where the "light" comes on.

Your headache physiotherapist can assess your neuromechanosensitivity.

More info:

Headache & Migraine

Neck Headache

Jaw Headache

Article by John Miller

How Do You Get Rid Of A Neck Headache?

Quality neck physiotherapy can have a speedy and effective result for relieving your neck headache—the key to better treatment response in confirming your diagnosis. After your assessment, your physiotherapist will start you with treatment techniques that address your problems.

Your neck headache treatment may include all or some of the following techniques:

Who Treats Cervicogenic Headaches?

In addition to relieving your neck headaches, your physiotherapist aims to address why you are experiencing neck headaches. After all, helping you to avoid future neck headaches is a crucial component of your rehabilitation. Chronic headache sufferers typically resolve their neck headaches within days or weeks.

Relief of your neck headache is quite often immediate! If a neck headache solely causes your trouble, it is common to experience instant relief as you walk out of the clinic.

Depending on the severity and the specific underlying causes of your neck headaches, most sufferers will experience a reduced headache after your initial consultation.

For more information, please consult your neck headache physiotherapist.

More info:

Headache & Migraine

Neck Headache

Jaw Headache

Article by John Miller

What is a Primary and Secondary Headache?

The International Headache Society classifies headaches as Primary or Secondary.

Primary headaches are not related to any other problem and include migrainestension-type headaches and cluster headaches.

Secondary headaches. Caused by an underlying problem and can include a post-whiplash headacheneck headache, jaw headache and drug withdrawal headache. “Ice cream headache” is a secondary headache caused by extreme cold within your mouth. In other words, a secondary headache is a symptom of something else being wrong rather than the cause itself. Treatment for a secondary headache involves treating the source, e.g. loosen some stiff upper neck joints or stop eating ice cream!

Mixed Headache-Migraine Types

You can simultaneously suffer one, two or more types of headache or migraine.

One type may cause another or overlap with another. For example, a painful neck can cause increased muscular tension, which will increase your blood pressure. In this scenario, you would be suffering a neck headache + a tension headache, + a migraine!

Migraine

In our experience, finding the primary source of your headache or a migraine is the key to successful management.

What Else Could Be Causing Your Headaches or a Migraine?

Your physiotherapist and doctor will be able to assist with your diagnosis and headache source. Sometimes specific tests can confirm your diagnosis. On other occasions, it can be by process of elimination.

Unfortunately, there is a sinister cause of your head pain in a small percentage of patients, which requires investigation. These can include brain tumours, aneurysms, meningitis and other systemic illnesses.

Your physiotherapist or doctor may recommend that you complete a headache or migraine questionnaire that will assist in your headache classification, diagnosis and treatment. Once you complete these questionnaires, please present your physiotherapist or doctor's results to help with your diagnosis and treatment.

At PhysioWorks, we are interested in assessing, diagnosing, and treating neck, stress, and jaw headaches.

Please consult with your healthcare practitioner for an accurate diagnosis and treatment pathway.

More info: Headaches & Migraines