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Ever had a nagging headache that just wouldn’t go away?

By: C. Ashley Border, DPT

Ever had a nagging headache that just wouldn’t go away? Headaches can start for a variety of causes including muscular tension and weakness in the neck, stress, dehydration or low blood sugar, outdated reading glass prescriptions, or something sinister like a stroke, head injury, or other systemic problems in the body.

In the physical therapy world, we treat lots of patients with headaches and often times, the culprit is tightness and tension in the neck muscles which is what we’ll focus on today. The relation between headaches and the structure of the cervical spine, or neck, is quite complex so let’s simplify this. The muscles that are typically the problem are the postural muscles. These generally span from the middle to upper back, the back and sides of the neck, the back of the shoulders and to the base of the skull.

Let’s imagine that these muscle become very tight, or shortened like a tight rubber band. You can imagine that this will not let the head and neck turn and move very well. It will even cause the joints in the spine and shoulders to pinch down and impinge nerve roots and blood vessels. N think about the muscles on the opposite side of the body: the front of the chest, shoulders, and neck. These are like a very old and stretched out rubber band. They aren’t string enough to hold anything together, hold your head up or help you stand up straight.

This combination of a very taut back side of the neck region and very stretched out frontal region creates a recipe for disaster and in most cases, it’s a bad headache or recurring headache.

Symptoms that result from this include a headache that starts at the base of the head and traces to the top of the head and even to the eyes. It can also radiate down to the base of the neck

What can be done to handle headaches and neck tension?

In some cases, medicine can enable folks to find temporary relief. The same goes for heating pads and massage. But the key word in these sources of relief is TEMPORARY. Why not fix the source of the headache instead of just scrambling to manage the symptoms? To handle headaches for good, you need to address the muscular imbalances or those very tight muscle in the back and the very weak muscles in the front. This is where physical therapy comes in. At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, our physical therapists will fully assess your neck and shoulders and postural muscles. They will determine the exact source of your headaches, because remember, it might not always be muscular.

Let us show you how to use your postural muscles correctly so that your head can sit balanced on your neck! We will show you what and how to strengthen and stretch to create equilibrium for the head, neck, and shoulders. We will also assess what habits in your lifestyle you can change to address the reason your postural muscles are imbalanced. These habits can include a poor desk set up at work, poor body mechanics with weight lifting, sitting in a bad car seat position while driving your many hour long commute, to a student who has to study on a laptop. Call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300 and CLICK HERE for more on how physician therapy can help you. 

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