Headaches & neck pain – often two sides of the same coin

Many of our patients seek care for neck pain and stiffness.  Headaches are frequently associated with, and caused by neck pain and dysfunction.  These headaches are known as cervicogenic headaches (“neck-origin headaches”).

Neck-origin headaches are a form of primary headache, i.e. not linked to any specific injury or disease.  In the case of neck-origin headaches, abnormal posture and limited movement in neck flexion and extension as well as excessive neck muscle tension cause irritation and inflammation of nerve-ending-rich tissues (joints, muscles and ligaments) in the neck.

There are many treatment options for patients with these type of headaches.  Like our patient above, you may have tried every option available from drugs to surgery.  The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (2011) recently surveyed a body of published articles evaluating the safety and effectiveness of spinal manipulation in the treatment of headaches.  The study concluded: “Evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.”  Another study published in 2011 by the Journal of Headache and Pain concluded that chiropractic care “might be as equally effective” as certain drugs in the “prophylactic [preventative] management of migraines.”  Why not rather try safe chiropractic than side-effect-causing drugs, which only address the symptoms, not the cause?

The Chiropractic Report (2010) insightfully concludes, “Manipulation had two distinct advantages over use of medication – first it [targets] the source of pain rather than control of symptoms, and second it [is] safe with fewer side effects.”