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Headaches Coming From the Neck
by Dr. Dave Juehring
Editor's Note from Dr. Jeffery Tucker: Many people with neck pain suffer from headaches, and many people with headaches suffer with neck pain. Cervicogenic headaches are characterized by same sided neck, shoulder or arm pain, headache radiating from the posterior to anterior head, same sided upper neck pain and restriction of range of motion in the neck. The headaches are often aggravated by sustained neck positions or postures. I did an interview with Dr. Jeurhing who is a Professor at Palmer Chiropractic College in Davenport, Iowa on the topic of neck related headaches.
Cervicogenic headaches are thought to result from a convergence of sensory input from the upper neck area into an area of the lower brain.
Chiropractors assess posture, range of motion, muscle length, muscle strength, joint mobility, breathing patterns, and trigger points. A special test, the Cervical Flexion-Rotation test, can help confirm the diagnosis with ~90% accuracy. Based on my experience, I recommend a multi-modal layered approach to cervicogenic headaches (or any chronic musculoskeletal pain syndrome for that matter): modalities, manual therapy, and therapeutic exercise. For cervicogenic headache patients, modalities such as TENS, cold therapy, or laser therapy can be helpful. Spinal manipulative therapy is well supported and has been effective for patients with cervicogenic headache. Other manual therapies such as deep soft tissue mobilization and kinesiological taping can be helpful adjuncts.
Therapeutic exercise including muscle stretching and specific strengthening exercises can help address muscle imbalances seen in cervicogenic headaches. Several studies have shown that cervical strengthening exercises with Theraband elastic resistance can help reduce headache and neck pain symptoms. In summary, management of cervicogenic headaches begins with an accurate diagnosis. A multi-modal approach including Thera-Band exercises, modalities and manual therapies provided by a Chiropractor can help alleviate symptoms of cervicogenic headache.
About the Author
Dave Juehring DC, DACRB, is the Resident Director of the Palmer Chiropractic Rehabilitation Residency and Director of the Rehabilitation and Sport Injury Department at Palmer Chiropractic Clinics. He is a post graduate speaker on various rehabilitative and diagnostic topics for many continuing education programs and has been published on similar topics in text and numerous peer reviewed journals. He has been involved with the US Bobsled program and has been a team leader and coach for the 1994, 1998 and 2002 winter Olympic Games. Spanning his career, he has helped the program win many medals and championships, most notably a Gold medal for the women’s team and a Silver and Bronze for the men’s team at the 2002 games. He is very familiar with the efforts and desires needed to compete at a high level of athletics.