Did you know it is highly likely your neck is contributing to your headache?
Headaches caused by your neck are usually a result of the top three joints in your neck not moving properly. This is not something that will show up in a scan, and so the diagnosis must be confirmed via a physical examination from a skilled clinician.
Osteopaths for many years have recognised the link between headache and the neck. Dr Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathy, suffered from headache and found relief by fashioning a swing to cradle his neck creating traction at the back of his neck – back in the 1800s!
In modern medical circles, we have been a bit slower to catch on, with researchers first hypothesising about the neck being a source of headache in the 1980s. After years of gaining further understanding of headache and migraine, we now know that in fact various types of head pain that were not previously thought to be caused by the neck have now been shown to be neck related in the majority of cases. These neck headaches are known medically as cervicogenic headaches.
Tellingly this includes the two most common forms of headache: tension headache and migraine headache.
Tension headache is experienced by around 30% of the population every year.
A tension-type headache feels like a dull band of pain, usually sensed across both sides of the head. They can last anywhere from an hour to days on end, and can also be contributed to by poor sleep, stress, bright lights, poor posture and fatigue. The exact mechanism behind them remains unknown.
Migraine is the next most common form of headache affecting on average 6% of men and 18% of women.
Migraines are typically a more severe pain than a tension-type headache and usually affect one side of the head.
Sufferers may experience disturbances in their vision (like flashing lights or trouble focusing) in the hours before a migraine hits, while nausea and sensitivity to light are common symptoms. They are thought to be related to trouble with regulating blood flow to the brain.
Our osteopaths have been trained extensively in the diagnosis and treatment of the neck and will be able to ascertain whether your headache is related to or caused by lack of normal motion in your neck. They are also trained to assess whether there might be any other medical cause for your pain and will refer you to the correct specialist if required.