Headache and Neck Pain Research Update

Here at Park Bench Chiropractic in Frederick we think it’s very important to stay up-to-date with the latest scientific research regarding chiropractic and conditions like neck-related headaches. From time to time we will summarize recent research on topics we find important for our patients as a service to the community. We believe that knowledge is power – especially with your health – and this will help people make informed decisions about their health options.

Today’s article is about the difference between headaches that originate from the head and those headaches that originate from the neck. Many times you can get a headache and the cause of that headache is a problem in your neck muscles or spinal misalignment.

While neck-related headache (“cervicogenic headache”) can have symptoms very similar to a migraine, one of the main differences is the presence of pain down to the shoulder or arm and a history of neck trauma.

This makes sense when you consider that for a headache to be cervicogenic it must be one that has a source in the neck which refers pain to the head. This means that a source must be identified. Restricted range of cervical motion, tenderness over the zygapophyseal joints, and occipital tenderness have all been used as diagnostic criteria, although interobserver reliability is low.

Studies have been done that completely anesthetize different nerve root levels, and some of these studies were successful in completely eliminating the pain. This clearly demonstrates that the pain was being referred from nerves in the neck. Other similar studies doing the same thing weren’t successful.

Perhaps the best way to definitively diagnose a headache as cervicogenic is to treat the supposed neck condition and then, if the treatment is successful, then researches concluded that the headache must have been from a pain source in the neck.

Source: Distinguishing primary headache disorders from cervicogenic headache – Clinical and therapeutic implications, University of Newcastle Department of Clinical Research, Newcastle Hospital, New South Wales, Australia

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