08 Feb Neck Pain and Headaches

Time of year for headaches?


I’m not sure if it is the time of year – when people are getting tired and looking forward to a holiday – or if it’s something in the water, but there seems to be an ever-increasing number of people coming through my clinic door, in both St Albans and Moorgate, complaining of headaches.

Admittedly, people look puzzled as I try to explain that their headache may well be coming from their neck, but this is becoming more and more common, particularly amongst those who spend most of their day behind a desk, or in front of a computer screen. This particular type of headache is called a ‘cervicogenic headache’, in that it originates in the cervical spine (AKA the neck). These headaches were first officially recognised by the medical profession back in 1968, but literature suggests it was considered much earlier, around 1860.


Who suffers from these headaches?


In a literature review of 2004, it was estimated that in over 20% of chronic headache sufferers, the condition arises in the cervical spine. There is a heavy female disposition of a 4:1 ratio and the average age of sufferers is approximately 42. However, a single, more recent study, suggests that it isn’t as clear cut as this and there was no trend found in neither age nor gender.


Causes of Headaches?


Dysfunction of the neck can be caused by a variety of different things. Whiplash is a major cause, with research suggesting up to a third of people with whiplash injury will suffer a bout of chronic headache within a three year period after the initial injury. However, probably the most common type of cervicogenic headache I see as an osteopath is a result of years of poor posture or postural strain from sitting at a desk. We are all guilty of it!


How do I know the difference between headaches?


Commonly, cervicogenic headaches present initially as pain around the ‘suboccipital region’. This is the area around the top of the neck and base of the skull. From here, the headaches can be on one side or both sides of the head, and commonly travel up towards the eyes, and over the top or sides of the head. The headaches can be, and commonly are, of a daily nature, getting worse through the day or with sudden neck movements.


Headaches advice


Osteopathy has proven to be successful at treating headaches of this nature, and indeed other forms of headache too. Your registered osteopath will initially take you through a comprehensive case history and examination, and from there devise the best course of action to treat your headache. Commonly, this will be via the use of stretches, massage and exercise advice and, if deemed appropriate, acupuncture and osteopathic manipulation may be incorporated as well. Indeed, as an individual, you and your headache will be treated as such!

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our osteopaths for further advice.

Author: Diego Bresciani

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