If you find yourself frequently reaching for the aspirin to relieve a headache, it's time to visit a chiropractor like All American Chiropractic Center to see if the problem is really in your neck. Tense muscles in your upper back and neck can cause pain that is often felt in your temples. If this sounds like the pain you're experiencing, see a doctor for an evaluation of your back and neck muscles. Treatment can get rid of these annoying headaches.
Why Your Neck Makes Your Head Hurt
A number of nerves come off of your spine in your upper back and head up through your neck into the sides of your brain. An injury to the muscles in your neck, such as a sudden blow or twisting motion, can cause swelling in the muscles. This is what irritates the nerves to cause the pain in your head. This is called referred pain, when an injury in one part of the body expresses pain in a different part. Your reach for the aspirin to treat the headache but the real problem is in your neck muscles.
You can test this out yourself the next time you get a headache. Instead of taking a pain medication, apply a cool pack to your neck for several minutes. Or have your partner gently massage the muscles in your upper back and neck. These actions will relax the muscles and if your headache goes away, you might be looking at a neck injury. To be certain that this is the case, and not something more serious, see your doctor.
Treating Neck Muscles to Get Rid of Those Headaches
If your doctor determines that your headaches are the result of neck or upper back muscle issues, there are a number of ways they can treat it. These are all non-invasive treatments so they can be done at home or in an outpatient clinic.
- Physical therapy - Damaged muscles get shorter and become tense. Physical therapy is done to slowly stretch out and relax tense muscles. This relieves the swelling and pressure on the nerves. Your therapist may use a combination of heat, massage, range of motion exercises and cool packs to help the muscles relax.
- Nerve stimulation - This uses a small electrical current to encourage the muscles to relax. This is especially helpful when the muscles are having spasms, or they are so tense that you can feel a hard knot under the skin where the damaged muscles are located.
- Warm water therapy - A cool pack is useful for a short time right after a muscle tenses up. For a long term benefit, hydrotherapy is used to shoot jets of warm water on your neck. The temperature and massage action of the jets increases the blood flow in your neck, reducing the swelling and relaxing the muscles.
In addition to these treatments, an anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as ibuprofen, will relieve the headache as it reduces the swelling in your neck muscles.