Headaches are a common condition which many people suffer from every day. As those who experience headaches know, headache pain can be debilitating and have negative effects on work, relationships, and a person’s ability to function in everyday life. There are many types of headaches, and headaches caused by neck pain are called cervicogenic headaches. These type of headaches can be successfully treated with physical therapy.
How to Distinguish a Cervicogenic Headaches
While neck headaches can be confusing to diagnose there are several prominent symptoms. In cervicogenic headaches, pain is usually focused on one side (although it can be both) and is made worse by neck movements and poor posture. There is often tenderness at the base of the skull and joints of the upper neck. Additionally, there are often trigger points in the muscles around the front and back of the neck, as well as weakness in the muscles that stabilize the neck.
Causes of Cervicogenic Headaches
To understand how the neck can cause headache pain it is important to look at the structure of the cervical spine. Our neck is composed of 7 vertebra, C1 to C7 and 8 spinal nerves.
The first two vertebrae are called C1 and C2 and they are different than the rest of the vertebrae in the neck. Not only do they look different but they also have a different function. Research has shown that a large percentage of neck headache pain originates at this part of the spine. Physical therapy can help by improving motion at these levels and restrengthening the supporting muscles.
Successful Treatment Is Possible With Physical Therapy
Posture also plays a large role in dysfunction in the neck. In good posture, the shoulders are relaxed. If you look at a person with upright posture from the side, the neck is in line with the rest of the body. In individuals with neck pain, we often see what is called a “forward head position”. In this posture, the head is forward from the body and the chin is tilted out. This puts increased pressure on the joints in the neck and can lead to joint stiffness, muscle tightness and loss of strength. These changes in posture are often seen in office workers and those who spend a lot of time in front of the computer. The more time a person spends in positions of poor posture, the more likely there will be changes in the neck that lead to neck headache. A skilled physical therapist can assess posture and help a person correct their posture through education, manual therapy and exercise. They can also provide a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s workstation to promote good posture.
While neck headaches can be debilitating they are very treatable. Contact us today expert physical therapy care the causes of headache pain can be identified and effectively treated.