Neck tension and headaches are often interconnected. Tension in the muscles of the shoulders and neck can radiate up to the head, causing headaches.
Poor posture, stress, and injuries are common causes of both neck tension and headaches.
When the neck muscles are tight or strained, it can lead to tension headaches.
Conversely, if someone regularly experiences headaches, it can cause them to hold their neck and shoulders in a tense position, leading to neck tension. Therefore, addressing neck tension can help alleviate headaches, and vice versa.
Are My Headaches Caused by Shoulder Pain?
A common misconception is that shoulder pain causes headaches. A more accurate statement would be that the stress in your neck is what's causing the headaches.
The connection between neck tension and headaches lies in the muscles and nerves that connect to both areas.
When the muscles and nerves in the neck become tense or strained, it can create tension and pain that radiates up to the head, resulting in headaches.
The tension and strain can lead to the development of tension headaches, which are characterised by a dull, aching pain that can be felt on both sides of the head. These headaches are often described as a tight band or pressure around the head or behind the eyes.
Some of the usual causes of tension headaches are things like poor posture, being under stress, overusing certain muscles, getting injured, or having underlying medical problems. When these muscles and nerves become tense or strained, they can cause referred pain, which means that the pain is felt in a different area of the body than where the problem originates.
In addition to the pain, individuals may also experience other symptoms such as muscle stiffness, limited range of motion in the shoulders, neck or head, and muscle spasms. The pain and discomfort can vary in intensity and duration, ranging from mild and temporary to chronic and persistent.
Prioritising proper posture, stretching, and seeking treatment for any neck tension may help alleviate and prevent associated headaches.
Why Does Neck Tension Pain Cause Headaches?
Neck tensions can cause headaches due to a phenomenon known as referred pain. Referred pain occurs when the site of origin of pain and the area where the pain is felt are not the same.
In the case of neck tension causing headaches, this occurs because the nerves that supply the shoulder also supply the head and neck.
When there is an issue with the neck, such as muscle tension or inflammation, signals are sent through these nerves to the brain.
The brain receives these signals as pain in the neck, but it can also interpret the signals as pain in other areas that share the same nerve pathways, including the head.
Additionally, tightness or tension in the neck muscles can lead to tension headaches, which often manifest as a dull ache that can spread from the shoulder area up to the back of the head and sometimes even behind the eyes.
Therefore, addressing the underlying cause of neck tension and addressing any muscle tension is crucial in preventing and alleviating associated headaches.
Common causes of neck tension
Neck tension is a common condition that our therapists treat that can be caused by a variety of factors.
Poor posture: Slouching or hunching over for extended periods can strain the muscles in the neck and lead to tension.
Stress and anxiety: Emotional stress and anxiety can cause muscles throughout the body to tighten, including those in the neck.
Muscle strain or injury: Excessive strain on the neck muscles, such as during heavy lifting or sudden movements, can cause tension and discomfort.
Prolonged computer or smartphone use: Spending long hours looking down at a computer or smartphone screen can strain the neck muscles and lead to tension.
While the list is not exhaustive, it is important to note that persistent or severe neck tension should be evaluated by a healthcare professional, like our therapists, to rule out any underlying medical conditions or injuries.
How to relieve a tension headache: 4 tips
Tension headaches can be incredibly painful and disruptive to our daily lives. Fortunately, there are several ways to relieve this type of headache and find some much-needed relief.
First and foremost, it is important to identify and address the underlying causes of the tension. This could involve making changes in your lifestyle, such as reducing stress, improving sleep patterns, and maintaining a regular exercise routine.
Applying heat or ice packs to the affected area can help alleviate the pain and reduce muscle tension.
Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation. By giving yourself some time to relax and unwind, it can reduce stress levels and soothe the headache.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide temporary relief, but it is important to avoid excessive use to prevent rebound headaches.
By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can effectively manage and relieve tension headaches, allowing you to get back to your usual activities without discomfort.
How do I get rid of a headache and neck tension?
If you are experiencing a persistent headache or neck tension, our physiotherapists can help alleviate your discomfort. Headaches and neck tension are often interrelated and can be caused by a variety of factors such as muscle tension, poor posture, or even stress.
Our highly trained physiotherapists specialise in treating musculoskeletal conditions and have a deep understanding of the human body.
During a consultation, they will assess your symptoms and develop a personalised treatment plan tailored to your needs.
This may include a combination of manual therapy techniques, exercises, and advice on improving posture and ergonomics.
Physiotherapy, medication, rest, and in severe cases, surgery may be recommended to alleviate symptoms and improve neck function.
By addressing the underlying causes of your headache and neck tension, our physiotherapists can provide long-lasting relief.
Don't let these symptoms disrupt your daily life any longer; book a consultation with our physiotherapists today and take a step towards a pain-free and healthier future.