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Headaches and Migraines

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Neck problems can lead to headaches. That’s right; it’s not all in your head! While in some instances your headaches may result from a problem within your head, the vast majority of headaches originate with problems in your neck.

A team of doctors at Syracuse University, New York, has substantiated what chiropractors have been saying for years, that damaged structures in the neck cause the pain of many headache sufferers. Similar studies in Australia and France have drawn the same conclusions. Headaches have been divided into two types by traditional medicine: tension headaches and migraine headaches. Other experts, like Peter Rothbart, MD, a neurologist who runs a headaches clinic in Toronto, Canada, are now looking at headaches previously categorized as tension or migraine headaches as being rooted in the neck.

If you have headaches that don’t just hurt your head, but also involve pain or lack of movement in your neck, you may be experiencing myogenic headaches. Myogenic headaches are one of two kinds of headaches that originate in the neck, the other being vertebrogenic headaches. When strained or irritated neck muscles cause the pain, the headaches are myogenic. When dysfunction or irritated vertebral joints cause the pain, the headaches are vertebrogenic.

People with myogenic headaches often feel mild to severe discomfort or pain on one side of their head, although this pain can occur on both sides. The pain usually starts in the neck but can also start in tight muscles at the back of the head and even in muscles that work the jaw. From either of these places, the pain can spread to the temples and possibly in combination with the ears, eyes, and the top of the head. Those who experience vertebrogenic headaches generally feel a dull, constant ache on one side of their head as well as tenderness in the neck region. The pain usually begins in the neck and makes it’s way up behind the eyes, and possibly to the ears and the top of the head.

The pain of myogenic headaches and vertebrogenic headaches can be severe, although it is rarely accompanied by extreme migraine symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound. The duration of the pain varies from episode to episode and can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple weeks. If your headache has its source in the neck you may find that awkward or uncomfortable postures and certain neck movements, like turning or bending can make the pain worse. The muscles around your neck may also be tight and abnormally tender, and your neck may resist certain movements and be unable to move through its normal range of motion.

While it is obvious that injuries like a motor vehicle accident can bring about these types of headaches, prolonged periods of bad posture can make you more susceptible. For this reason secretaries, truck drivers, and car mechanics, who often hold positions that cause gradual postural changes in the body, are at risk. Poor posture, such as from extended phone work can create neck abnormalities that can affect the function of the cervical spine, leading to subluxations (stuck or misaligned spinal joints) and spinal joint dysfunction. In fact, to correct any spinal joint problems that can contribute to headaches, it is best to see a chiropractor.

Chiropractic care is highly effective in decreasing the intensity and duration of headaches. A chiropractor can restore movement in the joints of your neck to alleviate symptoms and help prevent the condition from returning.

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