There are a number of reasons people suffer from headaches. Some of the more common medical explanations for this pain in your head are dehydration, side effects from medications, sinus pressure or maybe just a bit too much alcohol. But if you’re reading this and wondering why you have headaches, especially recurrent headaches and don’t necessarily identify with any of the previous possible causes, you could be suffering from cervicogenic headaches. “Cervico” in this case refers to your neck and “-genic" means origin of. Most clients and or patient’s do not consider their necks as the origin of the headache problem.
When a headache is originating from the neck, I often see restrictions in vertebral spine mobility at different levels (also known as cervical spine mobility) especially at the very top of the spine (C1 and C2). A restriction in neck spine mobility either at the very top of the spine or at different levels of your neck ,(C3-C7), can cause painful movement in different directions when the head turns and bends. As a result, the patients muscular system can adapt to this relative lack of mobility in their neck spine and develop shortening or tightening of the surrounding neck muscles. You’ve heard of people saying how good it feels to have their neck and shoulders “rubbed”. Typically it is because we carry a lot of tension in our neck and shoulder muscles but underneath that their is almost always a restriction of neck spine mobility at one or multiple levels that needs to be addressed.
The role of a certified manual physical therapist should always be to first carefully evaluate your posture and range of motion related to your particular body type. Additionally, a careful neurological examination should also be considered before any manipulation or treatment is performed. Once the areas of concern are identified, careful manipulation to stiff or restricted segments can be implemented along with stretching of tight neck and upper back muscles to alleviate pain and tension in the neck and ultimately resolve headache pain. An emphasis on postural re-education should follow, which will help strengthen weak areas of the neck and shoulders that allowed the neck to fall into a position that contributed to the headache episode.
If you think you may be suffering from cervicogenic headaches and are tired of using over the counter or prescription medication to treat the symptoms and not the cause of your headache, then it may be time for you to schedule and appointment for a thorough examination and hands-on treatment. A full hour will be dedicated to examining and treating the problem source based on your particular examination findings. You will then be prescribed a specific and individualized home exercise program to continue following your appointment to further abate the pain and expedite recovery.
Don’t wait for Headache Pain to either start or linger long enough to take you out of your fitness routine, hobby or work routine. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Mike, Manual Therapy Certified Physical Therapist today!