Are your headaches caused by neck tension?
19 September 2017
Headaches may not seem like a particularly serious health condition. But ongoing pain, even at a low level, can have serious impacts on our physical and metal wellbeing. And with more than 10 million people in the UK suffering with regular headaches, according to the NHS, the problem is a significant one.
If you regularly experience headaches, perhaps with a feeling of a tight band around your forehead, neck tension is very likely to be the culprit. While stress or lack of water can be a trigger, over 70% of headaches actually come from the neck. These are called tension headaches and are caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck.
“The pinched nerves come out of your neck into your head, and branch out like a firework,” says Rose Ritchings, a chiropractor based at our Yate branch.
Neck tension causing mild, moderate or intensely painful headaches can be caused by anything from sitting at a computer for a long time to looking down at your phone or driving long distances. Headaches are one of the most common reasons for visiting a doctor and are responsible for a lot of missed days at work. They can make it difficult for you to focus and concentrate, and also cause problems with mood.
Because they increase pressure in our heads, over time people can actually become numb to their headaches and stop recognising them for the serious sign they are: that something is wrong and needs attention.
The downside of painkillers
If you find yourself reaching for the painkillers more and more often to cope with headaches, it might be time to look at what’s really going on. When used sparingly, painkillers can be a short-term life saver. However, they mask the pain and can potentially have multiple negative effects on our bodies.
If used regularly, opiate pain relievers have been shown to cause everything from constipation to hormone imbalance, a weakened immune system, depression and even nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or worsened pain. They may also conceal a more serious condition which needs diagnosis and treatment, such as a brain tumour. And, as one study from American medical research clinic Mayo Clinic showed, if these medications are overused, they can lead to “overuse” or “rebound” headaches, which happen when you experience pain as the drugs wear off.
As Rose points out: “If you went to the dentist with a toothache, and they told you to take painkillers, you would be very confused – after all, you have a dental problem. Dentists treat the problem rather than mask it, much like chiropractors.”
So what do you do if headaches are causing restrictions in your everyday life? Maybe you’re unable to play the sports you love or fun days out with friends and family are cut short by the onset of a headache.
Take charge of your headaches
You can get back control of your life through chiropractic care, which will keep the pain away more effectively than any quick fix. Research shows that the most common types of headaches respond well to chiropractic treatment – something our own experience backs up.
At Willow Chiropractic, we listen to your individual life circumstances and issues and make sure we understand where you are coming from so we can best help you. We look closely at how your pain is impacting on your life and what situations might be contributing to it.
Your chiropractor will examine the vertebrae in your neck and adjust the joint that isn’t working correctly. Chiropractic removes the blocks that affect how well the nervous system works. It helps relieve headaches so you can continue with the things you love, pain-free.
Improving posture helps to reduce misalignment of the bones in the neck, so we will also recommend changes you can easily adopt in your everyday life, such as better sleeping positions.
You can even learn to cope with stressful situations more effectively so that they do not bring on tightened neck muscles and a headache. For example, you might take breaks more often and get regular exercise to refresh yourself and keep your spine flexible.
Whether you have the occasional splitting headache or a chronic problem, neck tension doesn’t have to keep you trapped in a cycle of headaches and painkillers or stop you making the most of life. At Willow, we go beyond diagnosing pain and work with you to create a plan that gets you back on track.
Rose Ritchings from the Yate clinic
Pain Management – Side Effects of Pain Medicines. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/tc/pain-management-side-effects-of-pain-medicines#1
Tension Headache – The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/diagnosis-treatment/treatment/txc-20211544