Headaches and neck pain can be a double-edged sword. Tense or stiff neck-supporting muscles, ligaments, or tendons sometimes contribute to headaches. Conversely, headaches sometimes lead to stiff neck muscles, which could result in neck pain as well. Though you may need to see a Los Angeles spine surgeon for possible treatment options if your neck pain persists, fortunately, there are some ways you may be able to get rid of a headache related to neck pain. Here are eight tips to help you out.
1. Apply Pressure to the Right Spot(s)
Some people experience relief with firm pressure applied to the forehead, temples, or back of the neck. You can do this with your fingertips or hands, or even a handkerchief placed around your head. This suggestion may work for neck pain associated with the two most common types of headaches—tension headaches and migraines.
2. Use Heat
Headaches are sometimes caused by blood vessels that become narrower (constricted). If this is the case with your situation, you may experience relief when applying heat to the back of your neck by:
- Taking a warm/hot shower
- Using a heating pad
- Pressing heat gel to your neck
Note: Limit heat applications to 15 minutes at a time and wait for a few hours before applying more heat to avoid damaging your skin.
3. Give Ice a Try
Ice has the opposite effect of heat in that it restricts blood flow, which can be a good thing if you want to prevent muscle spasms in your neck. Ice also reduces the inflammation that can make neck pain and related headaches worse. People with migraines, in particular, tend to benefit more from ice than heat.
Note: Follow the same precautions mentioned for heat applications.
4. Watch Your Posture
Hours spent sitting or slouching won’t do your upper spine/neck any favors. Poor posture places added stress on joints and soft tissues in the neck area that could contribute to headaches. Improve your posture by:
- Aligning your head with your shoulders and hips
- Taking regular breaks when sitting for long periods
- Avoiding excessive forward head leaning
- Selecting the right pillow to maintain the correct head-neck alignment as you sleep
5. Get the Right Amount of Sleep
Speaking of sleep, not getting enough can worsen neck pain and headaches. However, some studies suggest sleeping too much has a similar effect. Ideally, you want to strive for 7-8 hours of high-quality—e.g., uninterrupted, deeper stage—sleep each night.
6. See a Physical Therapist
A physical therapist can recommend exercises and techniques specific to your unique combination of neck pain and headaches. Methods suggested may involve:
- Massage therapy
- Stretching exercises targeting neck/shoulder muscles
- Posture-improvement exercises
- Therapeutic exercises targeting related spine-supporting soft tissues
7. Consider Alternative Treatments
Some people with neck pain and headaches benefit from treatments usually considered alternative. These options typically use very specific techniques to ease muscle tension and increase circulation. Techniques of this nature might involve:
- Massaging tender areas in your neck area (trigger point therapy)
- Inserting sterile needles into painful trigger points in your head-neck area (dry needling)
- Using ultra-thin needles to increase the natural flow of energy (qi) in your head-neck area (acupuncture)
8. Keep a Journal
Because there are many factors that can influence neck pain and headaches, it may help to keep a journal for a short time. The information you document could make it easier to suggest beneficial treatments and identify likely symptom triggers. In your journal, note such things as:
- What you were doing when you experienced neck pain and/or headaches
- What foods you normally eat
- What movements seem to make your discomfort worse
- Whether or not you were overly stressed when you had headaches and neck pain
Lastly, make sure to get a proper diagnosis if you’re regularly experiencing headaches and neck pain. Specialized tests and image scans can determine whether or not the problem is related to something going on in your neck so treatment and symptom management recommendations can be further tailored to what’s right for you.
Article By: Men’s Clinic Orlando