Headache and neck pain often go hand in hand; therefore treatments can address both problems.
Causes of Headache and Neck Pain
The most common type of headache is a tension headache. Tension headaches contract, or tense, the scalp and neck muscles as a result of anxiety, depression, stress, or even a head injury. Some people have chronic headaches. Rebound headaches occur when pain medications are overused. Holding the head in one position for too long is often a cause of headaches and neck pain. Fine work with the hands, computer work, or sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position can all trigger tension headaches. Other causes include caffeine, sinus infections, eye strain, dental problems, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, the flu or colds, smoking, fatigue, and alcohol use. Some tension headaches occur with migraines.1 Migraine headaches “cause intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head”. Migraine symptoms can also include nausea and vomiting and “extreme sensitivity to light and sound”. These episodes can last for hours or days. Some people experience auras with their migraines, which are warning symptoms that might include blind spots, light flashes, or arm and leg tingling.2 Neck pain might be caused by repeated movements, strain, sprain, or spasm. A pillow with the wrong support, cradling a phone between the ear and shoulder, resting the head on an arm, and certain types of exercise and work can all contribute to neck pain. A trip or fall can also lead to neck problems, as can whiplash. Neck pain may have its roots in arthritis, cervical spinal stenosis, the flu, meningitis, fibromyalgia, or torticollis (wry neck).3
Treatments of Headache and Neck Pain
For neck pain, patients could try conservative treatment options such as heat or cold, rest, traction, massage, chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, or ultrasound. Medical options include topical anesthetic creams or patches, cortisone injections, muscle relaxants, pain medication, or even surgery. Medications mask the problem and often have side effects. Surgery is invasive and could have complications. It may be beneficial to consider alternative measures.4 Those who suffer from migraines might use medications, but there are also non-drug treatments, such as icing the area, getting enough sleep, quitting smoking, biofeedback, acupressure, aromatherapy, herbs, and avoiding triggers (red wine, stress, flashing lights, etc.).5 Self-care measures can prevent many headaches. It is important to stretch and take breaks when sitting in a fixed position. Low-impact exercise is useful. Patients should try to avoid teeth clenching. Dehydration is another cause of headaches, so drinking about “eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day” is key. Chiropractic care can be beneficial for headaches as well. Spinal manipulation and advice on nutrition and ergonomics may help patients who suffer from head and neck pain.6
Learn more about chiropractic and migraines.