Headaches affect a large number of us through our lives and are one of the most common causes for visiting the GP. Seeing your GP is a sensible first step to take but only very rarely does medical investigation tell us that something is wrong. This is reassuring enough but at the same time leaves lots questions unanswered. Most patients go on to rely on a life time of medication that masks the problems rather than solves them.
It is well documented that headaches can be caused by pain referred from disorders in the upper part of the neck. We call these types of headaches cervicogenic i.e. coming from the cervical spine. At first this is not something that most people would normally consider but actually the nerves in the
upper part of the neck link directly to a part of the brain that we know is sensitised in people with headaches, the trigeminal cervical nucleus.
Cervicogenic headaches are acknowledged by the International Headache Society (IHS), but in our clinical experience the role of the neck as both a cause and a trigger for many types of headache including migraine has been considerably underestimated.
Without expert assessment of the joints and soft tissues in the upper part of the neck a cervicogenic headache cannot be ruled out especially given that lots different types of headaches including migraine present in very similar ways.
Neck pain and injury can come in many forms. Pain can vary from dull to sharp (often described as a trapped nerve), constant to intermittent in nature, and is generally due to ‘irritation’ of a number tissues in the region (joint, disc, nerve, ligament, disc) rather than one specific tissue. The nerve tissue that supplies the muscles and skin of our upper limbs originates from the neck so symptoms such as pins and needles, numbness, and even loss of strength in the arm are also sometimes present.