One of the most common complaints we see as a therapists are people who suffer from neck pain, tension in their neck and shoulders, and tension headaches. What some people don’t realize is how connected their neck pain is to the tension headaches they are getting. Headaches can be caused by many factors such as; dehydration, hormonal changes, food sensitivities and even genes, however the most common factor is tension.
Common Causes Of Neck Pain And Tension Headaches
One of the most significant causes is posture. Almost everything we do in our day to day lives promotes a forward posture, which causes our shoulders to be rounded and our head to be pulled forward. The pectoral muscles in the front of our chest become shortened and tight. The muscles in between our shoulder blades (traps, rhomboids) then become over stretches and weak.
Over time this forward posture creates imbalances in our muscles, and spine, which creates even more tension. When our head is pulled forward it becomes much heavier for our neck muscles, especially the suboccipitals. They then have to work overtime to hold the up the extra weight. Stress is another factor. Many people carry stress in their neck and shoulders, and if not released it builds up and creates even more pain over time
How Neck Pain Becomes A Tension Headache
When headaches are caused by muscle tension, there are specific points in the muscles that have referral patterns. Many of these trigger points coming from the neck muscles and refer right into the head. Different muscles will cause pressure or pain in different areas of the head. This explains why sometimes we feel the headaches behind our eyes, the back of the head, or even across our forehead.
Another area that can cause headaches is the jaw. If you notice any jaw pain, clicking, or suspect you may be grinding your teeth it may be beneficial to mention it to your dentist, as there are many beneficial solutions such as a night guard which can make a huge difference with improving headache symptoms.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Once the exact cause of tension headaches and chronic neck pain is determined many people start seeing results and getting relief right away. Rehabbing posture does take some time but with the right program can it be improved no matter how severe or at what age. Once symptoms have subsided a maintenance program may be recommended so that the symptoms don’t build back up again.
What You Can Do At Home
The physiotherapist can give you stretches and strengthening exercises that you can do at home to help correct your posture, and improve the imbalances that have been created over time. Always stay hydrated. The body needs water, and keeping the tissues hydrated will help with reducing overall tension, and headaches.
Foam rollers and trigger point balls are great tools to learn how to self treat, so that you can release tension as soon as you feel it building up, hopefully preventing more pain or even a headache from occurring. Learn to de-stress! Stress is always going to be a part of life, so it is so important to find ways to help manage stress on a regular basis. This will be different for everyone but some examples are; yoga, epsom salt baths, meditation, exercise, reading, or just something you real enjoy doing!
How Apex Can Help
If you suffer from neck pain and tension headaches, we may be able to help undermine the cause and prescribe treatment, exercise, and coping strategies that help you deal with the problem. The following therapies may prove useful to you: