According to the National Headache Foundation, severe headaches account for nearly 160 million lost workdays each year in the United States. It’s believed most headaches are caused by tight muscles and blood vessels that expand in the head. Tense neck muscles sometimes contribute to headaches as well, and other times constricting pain in the forehead and temple area affects neck-supporting muscles. Here’s what you can do to experience relief when you’re dealing with headaches accompanied by neck pain.
One quick way to ease neck pain from a tension headache is to place pressure on your temples or forehead with your fingertips. Applying pressure to the back of your neck in the same way may also be helpful, especially when tense neck muscles are making your discomfort worse.
For pain relief purposes, cold works by easing inflammation, decreasing blood flow, and reducing muscle spasms. Wrap some ice in a washcloth or thin towel and apply it to the area where you feel pain. There are also cooling gel sheets and cooling eye masks that can serve the same purpose.
Some headaches are caused by constricted blood vessels. If this is the case with your headache, gently place a heat pack on the back of your neck for about 10 to 15 minutes. A warm shower can provide similar benefits while also helping you relax.
Neck, shoulder, and back muscles can be affected by slouching, excessive forward leaning, and other types of poor posture habits. Better posture can boost the health of your cervical discs and avoid the need for surgical intervention, such as replacing a diseased disc with a Mobi-C artificial cervical disc. Beverly Hills residents can reduce their odds of irritating or straining muscles in their necks in a way that may contribute to headaches by:
• Keeping the head and shoulders aligned
• Avoiding prolonged neck craning while using computers or various devices
• Not tilting the head excessively to one side or the other
Tension headaches and related neck pain can be even more of a disruption to your daily life if you’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can make existing headaches worse or even contribute to them. On the flip side, there’s research suggesting sleeping too much may cause tension headaches or make them worse.
An unsupportive pillow can throw off your head-neck alignment enough to leave you waking up with headaches and/or neck pain. Polyester and latex pillows tend to work well. Regardless of what type of material you prefer, choose a pillow that’s:
• The right height for your preferred sleep position
• Supportive enough to retain your head-neck alignment
• Comfortable enough to allow you to sleep through the night
Tension headaches are sometimes caused by certain headache triggers, such as increased stress and anxiety. You can take steps to ease your personal stress level as much as possible with relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, certain yoga poses, and meditation. Exercises like these also promote the release of the body’s “feel-good” hormones, called endorphins, which can further keep you relaxed.
If it’s suspected that neck pain may be making your headaches worse or contributing to them, you may be referred to a physical therapist, who can recommend a customized treatment plan that includes neck-stimulating exercises, manual therapy, and other techniques designed to strengthen the muscles that support the neck and upper back.
A massage therapist can target certain trigger points around your neck to relieve tension. Scalp muscles and tender nodules in your neck area can also be appropriately stimulated.
Acupuncture and acupressure are two forms of ancient Chinese medicine that may be able to restore the body’s internal balance and ease tension by stimulating certain energy meridians and acupoints in your body. Let the practitioner know you’re experiencing headaches with neck pain so treatments can be better tailored to your specific needs.
Tension headaches are fairly common, but they’re not the only type of headache that can affect soft tissues in your neck. If you have repeated instances of headaches with neck pain, check with your Beverly Hills spine surgeon to see if you might be a migraine sufferer. Migraines, which can be triggered by certain foods, smells, and sources of light, can also cause neck pain.
If you’re having severe or chronic headaches associated with neck pain, see a spinal health specialist to determine if your pain is related to cervical or spinal issues. At The Spine Institute, our industry-leading physicians use state-of-the-art methods and technology to diagnose and treat all forms of neck and back pain. To schedule a consultation, give one of our friendly staff a call today at 310-828-7757.