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Why Headaches are a Pain in the Neck

Sep 09
Migraines/Headaches, neck pain

Now, I’m not saying that all headaches are created equal, nor are they from the same source, but chances are if you’ve experienced a nagging headache is was probably caused by your neck!    I’d like to explain why some headaches occur so that you can prevent them.  As stated above, not all headaches are equal, nor are they all preventable; however, the majority of everyday headaches can be attributed to everyday causes.

First thing to discuss is why a headache occurs.  Unfortunately, the scientific community has not come to a clear decision on this, despite years of study.  The general consensus, however, is that blood flow to the structures around the brain is chiefly responsible for head pain.  The brain itself cannot feel pain, as it does not have any sensory receptors (nerves that interpret pain), but the thin layers of protective tissue surrounding the brain can.  These layers, called the meninges (ever heard of Meningitis?  It’s the inflammation of those layers) contain the blood vessels that feed the brain.  It is thought that the increase or decrease in regular blood flow to these layers causes primary headaches, such as migraines and cluster headaches.  There is also the pain of a secondary headache, which comes from a source outside the skull cavity, such as muscle tension in the head or jaw or sinus inflammation.

The second thing to consider with headaches is how they happen.  Since, as stated before, the scientific community has not yet agreed on the exact way a headache occurs there is no way for me to cover it here.  However, there is the concept of how blood flow to the meninges in the skull can change, as well as how tension in the musculature of the head can occur.  Both of these situations commonly arise from pinched nerves, inflamed muscles, and dislocated vertebrae in the neck!  The blood supply for the brain is carried up through the Carotid Artery, while the “dirty” blood already used by the brain is drained away by the Jugular Vein, both of which run through the neck.  Since the neck is rather small in comparison to many other parts of the body important structures (such as the spinal cord, blood supply for the brain, and airways) are crammed together in close proximity, allowing for unintended involvement.  If a vertebrae is pulled out of place by a painful neck muscle the resultant movement can cause a blood vessel to become occluded; if the Carotid is pressed it may reduce blood flow to the brain, while pressure on the Jugular may result in a slight backlog of used blood being removed from the brain.  Since scientists have agreed that blood flow is a factor in many primary headaches it follows that the origin point of blood flow to the brain must be kept structurally sound in order to reduce the chance of pain.  On top of a potential blood flow issue, misaligned bones can cause a chain reaction of spasmed muscles, allowing pain in the neck to transform into inflammation and irritation of the skull muscles.

The last thing you need to know, if you are suffering from headaches of any sort, are preventative measures.  Here are a few things everyone can do to keep headaches at bay:

– Drink plenty of water (water keeps blood flow smooth and muscles more relaxed)

– Keep good posture (poor posture allows for misaligned vertebrae and muscle inflammation)

– Get treatment RIGHT AWAY if you’ve been in any type of accident, even if you don’t feel pain immediately (automobile crash, slip and fall, sports injury, etc)

– Keep your stress levels down (stress can change blood flow and cause irritated and strained muscles)

Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do to prevent headaches, such as seeing a Chiropractor when you feel pain in your neck or head, getting regularly scheduled treatments to prevent migraines, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and even having your eyes checked regularly to prevent inflammation in the eye muscles from squinting!  As difficult as it may seem, all of these steps have to be integrated into your life at your own pace and of your own free will.  However much of a pain in the neck it may seem it must be said that following a few steps to a headache free life is worth it!

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