Headaches and neck pain seem to go hand in hand. In fact, according to the Migraine Research Foundation about 75% of migraine sufferers experience neck pain either before or during an attack. One of the main symptoms of the most common type of headache, tension headaches, is neck pain or stiffness. So what causes headache and neck pain to occur together? If you suffer from both of these symptoms, how can you find relief? Read on to learn more about the surprising link between headaches and the neck.
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Tension headaches are named for their primary trigger – tension or stress. For most people, tension and stress is stored in the neck and shoulders. This leads to pain and stiffness in the neck. The neck strain, in turn, leads to headaches. In what way?
At the top of the neck, right at the base of the skull, is a bone called that atlas that balances the head. When the atlas moves out of alignment, even by a fraction of a millimeter, it can affect brainstem function. The result can be headaches. In this way, stress has a direct effect on triggering headaches.
Brainstem function also plays a vital role in the onset of migraines. However, there are a few other factors that can come into play that also relate to the upper cervical spine. For example, the atlas helps to facilitate blood flow to the brain. When that free flow of blood is affected, certain parts of the brain may receive less oxygen. This is another key factor in the onset of migraines.
Finally, another cause of migraines may relate to increased intracranial pressure. When the upper cervical spine is out of alignment, cerebrospinal fluid may fail to drain properly. This can cause pooling of cerebrospinal fluid, leading to a chain reaction that results in migraines.
Headaches and neck pain are so closely related that one Italian study revealed that many migraine sufferers believe that their primary health issue is cervical disease. According to the study, the reason patients diagnosed themselves with this chronic neck problem was because of pain in the neck that was often triggered by weather changes and that was accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting as well as dizziness and vertigo.
The result of the study was that nearly two-thirds of the patients examined turned out to have migraines. The neck pain was simply one of the migraine symptoms. Clearly, this is a common mistake that people make when self-diagnosing, and it may be perpetuated by the fact that neck pain is almost never listed as a migraine symptom despite being one of the most common ones.
Let’s review the three ways the cervical spine can affect headaches.
Clearly, there are links between neck issues and headaches. It is no wonder then that neck pain and headaches are especially common after head and neck trauma. If you have ever experienced a concussion, a whiplash-type injury, or even a less serious injury in this sensitive area of the body, you likely have a misalignment that is affecting the three bodily functions noted above.
Upper cervical chiropractic is a subspecialty of the field that specifically targets the bones in the upper neck that are located right at the base of the skull. Therefore, it can help with brainstem function, blood flow to the head, and cerebrospinal fluid drainage. What should you know about upper cervical chiropractic before scheduling an appointment?
If you are suffering from a chronic headache or migraine issue, give an upper cervical chiropractor near you a call. This safe and gentle form of chiropractic care is helping hundreds to experience less frequent and severe headaches. Some long-time sufferers are even headache-free.
The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.