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Neck Pain as a Possible Cause for Your Headaches

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Neck pain can really put a kink in your day. Many people suffer from neck pain from a number of reasons. However, many people don’t realize that the pain in their neck may be the cause of their headaches. Here at a Family Chiropractic Clinic in Denton, Texas we see many patients who suffer with neck pain and headaches. Our staff has the goal of helping these patients overcome their pain and seize control of their life.

Why Does Neck Pain Cause Headaches?

When neck pain leads to a headache it’s called a cervicogenic headache. These types of headaches can frequently be misdiagnosed as cluster headaches or even migraine headaches. The reason that neck pain can often lead to a cervicogenic headache has a lot to do with the three cervical spinal nerves located in your neck. The roots of these nerves share a pain nucleus with your trigeminal nerve. As you experience neck pain the pain signal is sent to your brain. The trigerminal nerve is the primary sensory nerve that delivers messages from your face to your brain. Since the three cervical spinal nerves and the trigerminal nerve all share the same nerve tracts, your brain may be confused. Your brain can easily misunderstand the pain from your neck to be a headache.

Diagnosing Headaches Caused by Neck Pain

Of course, due to the complexity of the situation, diagnosing a cervicogenic headache can be quite difficult. Most headaches tend to present with the symptoms of pain, sometimes accompanied by nausea along with sensitivity to light and noise. Additional symptoms that may indicate that you have a cervicogenic headache can include tenderness at the bottom of the skull. Worsening headache symptoms due to head and neck movement can also be an indicator.

If you think that your neck pain may be causing your headache then it’s a good idea to speak with a medical professional. They will take a medical history and perform a physical exam. They will then begin a series of tests in an effort to diagnose the connection between your neck pain and your headaches. Tests often includes cervical spine x-rays, skull x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and diagnostic nerve blocks. A diagnostic neve block will help your doctor determine the origin of the headache. It’s normal to have to undergo several diagnostic nerve blocks to determine where the pain is coming from.

Treating Headaches Caused by Neck Pain

If your medical professional determines your neck pain is causing headaches they will help create a treatment plan. The treatment plan you receive will have the goal of successfully relieving your headaches without causing additional pain. After your doctor has reached a diagnosis then your treatment plan may include a variety of options.

Occasionally they may consider prescribing pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs. Other medications that are commonly prescribed are anti-seizure medicines, anti-depressants, and migraine medications. Sometimes, medications aren’t able to provide relief for the patient. In these cases, your doctor may recommend injections such as occipital nerve blocks or facet joint blocks.

Alternative treatment methods may be available for patients who wish to avoid medications and injections. Once your doctor has diagnosed the cause of your headaches you may consider reaching out to an experienced chiropractor. A chiropractor who is trained and has experience in treating cervicogenic headaches may be able to resolve your problem without medications. They would accomplish this by determining why you are experiencing neck pain. Their goal would be to resolve the neck pain issue, thereby resolving the headache issue. If no pain messages are being sent to your brain for your neck, then your brain won’t misinterpret them as something else.

A chiropractor will use treatment options such as spinal manipulation, mobilization, and massage to treat your neck pain. They will focus on your neck and upper back and attempt to relieve the tightness and tension that leads to the headache. The mechanical and neurophysiological effects from restoring mobility in your neck are believed to relieve pain. However, manipulation of the neck is a very delicate procedure. It is very important that you seek care only from an experienced chiropractor should you go this route.

Preventing Headaches Caused by Neck Pain

There are a number of small adjustments that you can make to your lifestyle in order to prevent the occurrence of neck pain and neck related headaches. It’s best to start by ensuring that you are eating a healthy diet. It’s equally important to allow your body enough restful sleep each night with adequate neck support. During the day you’ll want to focus on your posture during work, driving, and relaxation activities. Posture plays an extremely important role in the health of our spine. Practicing proper posture while sitting at your desk, performing other work duties, watching television, driving, and even looking at your mobile devices can make a big difference in reducing neck pain. Tension reduction techniques have also proven to be very effective in reducing neck pain. Regular exercise with proper support and posture can also strengthen muscles in your back and neck to help reduce neck pain.

If you have any questions about headaches caused by neck pain, please contact A Family Chiropractic Clinic  in Denton, Texas at (940) 566-0000.