Patients with headaches also commonly complain of neck pain. This relationship is the rule, not the exception; therefore, in order to achieve optimum results, treatment for headaches must include treatment of the neck. There are many anatomical reasons why neck problems result in headaches. Some of these include:
When patients seek treatment for their headaches, a thorough examination of the neck, upper back, and cranial nerves is routinely performed for the above reasons. It is common to find upper cervical movement and vertebral alignment problems present in patients complaining of headaches. Tender points located between the shoulder blades, along the upper shoulders, on the sides of the neck and particularly, at the base of the skull are also commonly found. Pain often radiates from the tender point over the top of the skull when pressure is applied in the upper neck/base of the skull area. Tenderness on the sides of the head, in the temples, over the eyes, and near the jaw joint are also common. Traction or pulling the head to stretch the neck has been demonstrated to relieve pain and this is often performed as part of the chiropractic visit (it can also be applied at home with the use of a home cervical traction unit). Chiropractic adjustments applied to the fixated or misaligned vertebra in the upper neck often brings very satisfying relief to the headache sufferer. Exercises that promote movement in the neck, as well as strengthening exercises, are also helpful in both reducing headache pain and in preventing occurrences, especially with stress or tension headaches.