There are many reasons why our patients have headaches, but recently we are seeing many patients that suffer from headaches caused by the neck area.
Headaches caused by the neck can manifest for two different reasons: the first is interference with your circulation. Misalignment of the vertebrae interferes with the circulation of the artery that goes directly to your brain (vertebral artery). The difference in blood pressure inside your brain compared to outside of your brain can cause severe headaches; in other words the difference in pressure can swell the dura matter and stretch it to the point of pain. Since most of the nerves that cause headaches are in the dura matter, even a little difference in pressure can cause severe headaches.
The second reason, and most common, is the misalignment of your skull or your occiput and of your first vertebra called the atlas. These could pinch the nerve that goes to the front of your face and the top of your head, this is the trigeminal nerve. Usually our patients experience this type of headache after a visit to the dentist or when they have slept on their belly or on their face all night, creating pressure between the skull and the first vertebrae. This type of misalignment can create muscle spasms in the temporal area and create a cluster headache.
Of course the first recommendation we give is that you get regular chiropractic adjustments. If you are apprehensive about neck adjustments, find a chiropractor who uses instruments to adjust the neck. For more info click here.
The second recommendation we can give you is to do neck stretches. For more info click here.
Lastly, we recommend that you change your sleeping patterns. For more info, click here.
The Effect of Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Cervicogenic Headache
This is a randomized controlled trial performed at the University of Odense, Denmark by chiropractors and medical doctors. From the abstract: Fifty-three [patients] suffering from frequent headaches who fulfilled the International Headache Society criteria for cervicogenic headache.were recruited from 450 headache sufferers from responded to the newspaper advertisements. .28 of the group received high-velocity, low-amplitude cervical manipulation twice a week for three wk. The remaining 25 received low-level laser in the upper cervical region and deep friction massage in the lower cervical/upper thoracic region, also twice a week for three weeks.
Results: The use of analgesics decreased by 36% in the manipulation group, but was unchanged in the soft-tissue group; this difference was statistically significant. The number of headache hours per day decreased by 69% in the manipulation group compared with 37% in the soft-tissue group; this was significant. Finally, the headache intensity per episode decreased by 36% in the manipulation group, compared with 17% in the soft-tissue group; this was significant. At a four-week follow-up, she remained pain free.
Nilsson N, Christensen HW, Hartvigsen J. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1997 (Jun); 20 (5): 326-330