Neck pain and headaches are like the peanut butter and jelly of the medical world – you rarely find one symptom without the other. In fact, even when it comes to migraines, about 75% of patients experience neck pain either before or during the headache phase. When it comes to tension headaches, neck pain may be even more common.
What is the relationship between neck pain and headaches? Will understanding the answer help you to find natural relief?
Neck Pain & Tension Headaches
When stress is the underlying cause of your headaches, the neck is almost certain to come into play. The neck and shoulders are where the body stores tension. So people who get tension headaches almost expect a stiff neck to be a precursor. The neck pain makes sense when you are stressed, but how come no one asks why the headache occurs?
One possible reason is that the atlas (C1 vertebra) is located right at the base of the skull. This top bone in the neck balances the head, protects the brainstem and helps to facilitate blood flow to the brain. Since stress can have a direct effect on the neck and the atlas in particular, it makes sense that neck pain is a precursor to this type of headache.
Why Neck Pain Accompanies Migraines
To understand why migraines and neck pain are also linked, we once again have to look at the atlas. Reduced blood flow to certain parts of the brain and brainstem malfunctions have both been connected to this neurological condition.
Another factor is intracranial pressure. A misaligned atlas can also be at work in this case. Upright MRIs have revealed that when the atlas is out of place, cerebrospinal fluid may fail to drain properly. This, in turn, leads to pooling and increased pressure in the cranium.
Neck pain and migraines are so closely tied together that in one study in Italy, it was revealed that many patients confuse the two. While all of the patients in the study were diagnosing themselves with neck pain, it turned out that two-thirds of them were actually experiencing migraines. Perhaps this is because doctors and medical websites often leave out neck pain as a symptom when describing migraines.
The Three Links Between Headaches and Cervical Pain
In review, there are three ways in which neck pain and various headache types are linked:
- Intracranial pressure – If the atlas becomes misaligned, this can cause neck pain as well as a reduction in cerebrospinal fluid drainage. The drainage issues, in turn, lead to increased intracranial pressure and migraine headaches as well as other headache types.
- Blood flow – The vertebral foramen are loops in the cervical vertebrae through which the arteries pass that brings blood to the head. Therefore, any misalignment in the neck can lead to both pain and issues with cerebral blood flow. Blood flow problems have been linked to many headache conditions.
- Brainstem function – When the atlas is misaligned, it goes from doing its job as a protector for the brainstem to applying pressure to this key component of the central nervous system. Thus, the brainstem function may become inhibited. As a result, headaches can occur along with neck pain.
The question now becomes is there any way to get long-term relief from headaches and neck pain by correcting this underlying issue in the upper cervical spine. The answer is yes. We would like to introduce you to upper cervical chiropractic care, a subspecialty that has been helping many headache and migraine patients.
Upper Cervical Care and Chronic Headache Conditions
Upper cervical care gets to the source of many chronic neck pain and headache issues. Therefore, it makes sense to give this natural remedy a try. But what if you have never heard of upper cervical chiropractic before? What makes it unique? Here are a few things you will want to know:
- Focused – Upper cervical chiropractors adjust only the top two bones in the neck. Since this is where the problems occur for headache patients, the results are often beneficial. Upper Cervical Doctors are very precise, measuring misalignments down to hundredths of a degree.
- Gentle – Since we are talking about very precise adjustments, the corrections are extremely gentle. A gentle amount of pressure to a specific location on the neck by hand or by an adjusting instrument. As a result, patients of all ages and health conditions can enjoy this safe and effective form of care.
- Cost-efficient – Medical care for chronic headaches eventually becomes very expensive. Upper cervical chiropractic has brought some relief to headache patients by offering as-need care. In other words, you don’t have to get adjusted every week for the rest of your life. Once the surrounding soft tissue heals and your adjustments begin to hold longer, you can space out your appointments.
If you are suffering from neck pain and headaches, upper cervical care could be the answer. Contact a practitioner in your local area today and learn what this specialty can do for you.