Just like a lower back injury can refer pain down the leg like in Sciatica, a disturbance in the upper part of the cervical spine or top of the neck can cause:
Often traditional diagnostic techniques such as scans fail to identify any cause for your headaches/migraines and as result the only solution is to prescribe medication. Some medications have side-effects, some simply don’t work, and many people feel that they need to take them for the rest of their life; which may not be necessary.
Experiences with other health professionals can be frustrating and costly for the headache and migraine sufferer, with little or no outcome. People often feel that they are poorly understood especially when all of the tests come back negative. Some people complain that the treatment that they have had in the past from a physiotherapist/chiropractor/osteopath/massage therapist has made them worse, and this may well be the case. Traditional physiotherapy treatments can make the headache worse – which is why our treatment is completely different because we take the time to understand the cause of your headaches.
Headaches originating in the neck can look identical to the primary headache, migraine, tension headache or cluster headache. Part of the diagnosis of primary headaches is that you must exclude other known causes of the symptoms, including the neck. Unfortunately, most people have not had an assessment using the Watson Headache® Institute specific techniques, so will not have properly excluded the neck as a source of the problem. Seeing a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath, who is just assessing joint stiffness or neck pain, may not be able to diagnose the contributing spinal level, as this traditional type of assessment is not specific enough and so it will often be missed. Many people suffering from headaches have full range of motion and may not have any neck pain. At the Gold Coast Headache Clinic we can apply direct and sustained pressure over the specific spinal level or levels in order to reproduce the exact area of symptoms that you suffer from which is key to developing an appropriate treatment program.
Research into migraines related to changes in blood flow or tension-type headache and related to muscle spasm/tightness in the forehead muscles has now been shown not to be significant. It is now very clear from varying sources that the underlying problem in benign headaches is an overactive area in the brainstem (at the base of the head) due to noxious input from the upper cervical spine.
The three nerves from the top of the neck, (C1- C3 spinal nerves) feed directly into the brainstem with the trigeminal nerve, supplying the head and face. This creates the ability for signals from the upper three nerves to refer symptoms in the trigeminal field including the head and face bringing about headache, facial pain, sinus pain, pain behind the eye, throbbing or tightness in the head as well as pain in the ears, teeth or jaw. It can also bring on dizziness and change of sensation of smell, watery eyes, visual changes and nausea, or in young children abdominal pain without a “traditional” migraine.
The techniques developed by the Watson Headache® Institute show the link between the neck and the trigeminal nerve referral and the treatments are shown to decrease activity in the brainstem thus altering the sensation of headache/migraine with its associated symptoms.