stiff neck headache

Is Your Stiff Neck Giving You Headaches?

Earlier this fall, I visited Portland, Oregon to take a course about neck pathology and treatment.  This has me thinking about one of the more common problems I treat: cervicogenic headaches.  These are headaches that originate from neck stiffness and pain. This may involve muscles of the jaw and scalp as well.  

If you’ve experienced neck pain or stiffness with movement, have head pain, and have not experienced an injury, chances are you’ve experienced this type of headache.  Stiffness of joints at the top of your spine can cause this specific type of headache, which makes it different from a headache caused by tension. You’ll need an exam from a physical therapist to help you differentiate the two. We can also help you find other areas you may need to strengthen or stabilize.  

Therefore, if you hold your neck in a poor position too long in your workplace, you might get a stiff neck and eventually a headache.  Think about folks that do computer work, hair stylists, or construction workers here. Or anybody holding their chin over their toes rather than above their hips. Sleeping in poor positions can lead to these types of headaches as well.

Manage Headaches Caused by Neck Stiffness

Chin Tucks

Woman showing chin tuck
Chin tucks – do these at your desk, in the car, standing…anywhere!

Performing the dreaded “double chin exercise” throughout the day can keep the muscles and joints at the upper neck moving how they should.  

Adjust Your Pillow to Relax and Align the Neck  

pillow position
Position your pillow so that your neck is aligned and your muscles are relaxed.

Foam Roll

massage occiput
Massaging base of the skull on a foam roller.

Massage the base of your skull on the edge of a foam roller. Cue the groaning, I know. Trust me: laying on the foam roller and massaging the base of your skull on it’s edge is heavenly.  Or use a set of tennis balls if you’d like.

Finally and most importantly, the best advice I can give someone with a stiffness-related syndrome is: MOVE!