Complete Balance Physiotherapy

Headaches and Neck Pain

Many people suffer from headaches, sometimes on a daily basis, and can often notice pain referring down into their upper neck and shoulders.

The muscles and nerves supporting the upper neck can become sensitised, either through an acute injury such as whiplash, or over a period of time due to prolonged tension in the area and inefficient movement patterns.

These sensitised nerves send information up to the brain causing headache-like symptoms such as pressure in the front of the head, difficulty looking at bright lights and even nausea or dizziness. They can also result in pain or difficulty with certain movements, such as turning your head to look over your shoulder. You may even find a particular ‘pressure point’ where your neck joins the base of your skull which can sometimes reproduce and refer pain around your head.

Research has also shown us that there is an increase in cranial and upper neck muscle activity in migraine sufferers compared to non-migraine sufferers, indicating a possible link between the role of these muscles and headache onset.

Physiotherapy can help reduced the severity of these headache symptoms and associated neck pain through a combined approach of manual therapy to treat the sensitised area and exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscle systems – particularly around the neck, as well as the shoulders and upper back.

In addition, we advise taking regular breaks from stationary positions when working at a desk or sitting behind a computer. These set ups can be ergonomically adjusted to optimise your seated position. Despite this, the best remedy is movement, and it is advised to regularly change position throughout the day. Physiotherapy can also help by prescribing stretches and exercises to assist with this daily preventative management.

Research has also indicated a possible link between migraine prevention and the supplementation of magnesium. The body best absorbs water-soluble supplements, and so it’s best to look for magnesium paired with asparate, citrate, lactate or chloride. Magnesium supplements can be taken on a daily basis, but always best to consult your GP or pharmacist to ensure it’s individual suitability.

If you find yourself suffering for neck pain and headaches or would like to know more, please contact Complete Balance Physiotherapy to book an appointment.

Watson, D. H., & Drummond, P. D. (2012). Head pain referral during examination of the neck in migraine and tension-type headache. Headache, 52(8), 1226–1235.

Janani, A. S., Pope, K. J., Fenton, N., Grummett, T. S., Bakhshayesh, H., Lewis, T. W., Watson, D. H., Whitham, E. M., & Willoughby, J. O. (2018). Resting cranial and upper cervical muscle activity is increased in patients with migraine. Clinical neurophysiology : official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology, 129(9), 1913–1919.

von Luckner, A., & Riederer, F. (2018). Magnesium in Migraine Prophylaxis-Is There an Evidence-Based Rationale? A Systematic Review. Headache, 58(2), 199–209.