Having aches and pains in the head and neck is usually blamed upon stress, overtiredness, sleep disturbances, alcohol or caffeine, computer screens (1), genetics, hormones, environment, (2) medication overuse, trauma, posture (3) and sometimes dehydration. But, here let us keep it simple (4) and consider that muscles and joints can give rise to head aches and neck pains. I don’t think anybody would argue that migraines are more disturbing than headaches because a migraine is a headache plus a sensory disturbance (5); like needing a dark room to lay down in.
In the UK 4% of adults each year seek a GP appointment for their headaches whilst most self-manage (6) with almost everybody experiencing a headache at some point in their life (7). Yet, I’m not sure that pain modifying drugs would be my answer.
In this blog I introduce the likely 6 who pair up and can give rather unpleasant headaches, around the eyes, in the eyes, across the forehead, in the ear and at the back or side of the head (8). The likely 6 are essentially two muscles called the Trapezius and the SternoCleidoMastoid (SCM).
Both the Trapezius and the SCM muscle tone is controlled from the brainstem. So… When we find our ‘self’ in a position of (perceived or real) danger/lack of safety then the brainstem can ‘rev’ up and send out more signal to increase muscular tone. Reducing a muscles’ ability to get food in and waste out. Eventually altering chemistry locally, picked up through a referral of pain and ache network of the head and neck. Once an increase in tone occurs then head posture gets poor and the chicken and egg cycle of posture or something else begins. As you hold your posture ‘good’ you will increase tone further actually making matters worse for yourself.
Next time you have an ache in the head or a pain in the neck consider visiting your chiropractor as resetting muscles might just alter your experience for the better. Book an appointment here.
- NICE, Final scope for the appraisal of botulinum toxin type A for the prophylaxis of headaches in adults with chronic migraine. August 2011
- More than “just a headache” – The Migraine Trust – What Causes Migraines?
- NICE, CKS: Headache Assessment Summary, Oct 2019 – ‘Precipitating Factors’
- Only 2% of people seeking help from their GP will be referred to a Neurologist. Latinovic R, et al (2006) Headache and migraine in primary care: consultation, prescription, and referral rates in a large population. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry77(3), 385-387.
- Professor Peter Goadsby, Professor of Neurology, King’s College London; Director, NIHR- Clinical Research Facility, King’s College Hospital London; Trustee of The Migraine Trust.
- NICE, CKS: Headache Assessment Summary, Oct 2019 – ‘How Common Is It?’
- Steiner TJ, et al (2014) The impact of Headache in Europe: principal results of the Eurolight project. Journal of Headache and Pain 15(31).
- Simons DG, Travell JG and Simons LS (1999) ‘Travell and Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. The Trigger Point Manual. Vol 1 Upper Half of the Body [2nd edition Williams and Wilkins] SCM p308 and Trapezius p.278