Headaches are enormously common. Many patients come to The Moballise Physiotherapy Clinic reporting sometimes excruciating headaches that begin in the back of their head and spread up and over the top of the skull. These headaches can sometimes affect vision or hearing.
The great news is that these types of headaches are very common. This means that there is usually a very fundamental, quite simple explanation for them. In most cases, they can be attributed to an increase in the passive muscular tension of the muscles on the back of the neck. This may be due to many reasons including recent or past trauma such as a car accident or weak muscles on the front of the neck.
These headaches are commonly known as cervicogenic headaches. The region of the spine in which these headaches originate is called the cervical spine – your neck – hence the ‘cervico’ part of the name. The term ‘genic’ comes from the word genesis, meaning beginning. They are so named because they usually ‘begin’ in the muscles of the ‘cervical spine’ – ‘cervicogenic’.
There are a couple of really simple techniques that you can use to resolve and manage these headaches.
1. The first is to ensure good movement ability in the cervical region. General mobility movements can be really beneficial – focus on rotating your head to the side and back to the centre.
Also, whilst facing directly forwards, lower your ear down to the side to meet your shoulder. You can place your hand on your head with both of these moves to provide a bit of over-pressure and create a stretch in the muscles.
2. To strengthen the muscles on the front of your neck lie on your back on a flat surface (your mattress is ideal – no pillow!) and, without lifting your head, draw your chin gently into your chest and then relax. It is really important that there is no straining of the muscles whilst you perform this exercise. These muscles are small, delicate and easily overwhelmed. Aim to repeat this only ten times. You can repeat this every morning when you wake and every night before you sleep.
By making sure you incorporate mobility into your normal daily activities you can be sure that they become a part of your everyday life and then, even when there are minimal painful symptoms, you can be confident that you are maintaining your mobility and, in a sense, your youth!