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In this article we’ll be going into depth on our approach to treating headaches and any related neck pain that frequent headaches can often be accompanied by. Equally it can also be the other way around where frequent bouts of neck pain can be accompanied by headaches. We thought we would share our experience, as often when we look at the imaging of patients who have this kind of problem, we frequently see an element of spinal misalignment. We’ll be going into detail about why this is a common occurrence and what can cause headaches to occur if you have a misalignment in your neck.

If you’ve read any of our other articles, we will generally refer to spinal misalignment and poor posture as being the biggest underlying cause of many different spinal conditions. A spine that is aligned in an ‘ideal’ way will have nice smooth curves throughout. Focusing on the neck, the head should be in a neutral position, allowing the blood vessels and nerves that come out of this region of the spine, just below the skull, to have free passage. The muscles should be effortlessly holding the skull in place with no balance issues, no extra stress or strain on that region of the skull.

Impact of Misalignment on Headaches & Neck Pain

Problems occur when the natural alignment is lost, and replaced by poor posture. Sadly, this is increasingly more common as more people develop ‘tech neck’ an aptly named phenomenon that describes the forward head posture developed from constantly adopting bad posture while interacting with technology. This could be consistently staring down at your phone during the day, on your commute, it could be laying down with your head propped up as you watch Netflix in the evening, or it could be slouching at your desk to look at your computer – whether that’s leaning forward hunched over your computer, or leaning back in your chair to look at the screen. All of these behaviours cause the ligaments in your spine to remodel the alignment of your spine and adapt to this new stress. The muscles that would support your back in its correct position begin to weaken as they’re no longer being used effectively, and hence the poor posture becomes comfortable because the muscles are no longer strong enough to comfortably hold you in a good posture.

What Effect Does Poor Posture Have On Your Body?

Forward head posture starts to irritate the joints in the back of your neck where the nerves travel from your spine into your skull. You may at this point start to experience discomfort on the back of your skull, as well as across the forehead and perhaps pain behind the eyes as well. It’s sometimes referred to as a tension headache, or a cervicogenic headache.

In patients who frequently present with this type of headache, we often find if we do imaging that they have a misalignment in their neck which causes the weight of the head to press down onto the neck structure and apply more pressure onto areas of the neck that are more susceptible to damage. When your spine has a natural and more ideal alignment, the pressure of your head from the weight of gravity is effectively distributed throughout your body – when this alignment is lost it starts to compress the structure and can often over time result in conditions like bulging discs, which in the neck can often cause other symptoms to appear such as tingling or weakness in the hands and fingers. When a person’s head is pressed back which is the case with forward head posture, it restricts the amount of space that the nerves have to travel through from the spine to the skull, which puts constant compression on them to just look straight ahead or just to go about your daily life. You may not notice this starting to happen to your neck, but when the spine begins to remodel as a result of the activities you’re doing, this is something that builds over time to have a permanent effect on the neck itself. Unfortunately, it’s something we’re seeing more in younger people who have been growing up with smartphones – and it’s definitely something to be very mindful of if you’re a regular user of your smartphone.

How Do You Fix Poor Posture?

To fix this kind of issue, it’s definitely worth doing your research to figure out if a local practitioner to you has a comprehensive understanding of X-rays and how the spine can be remodelled back into a more ideal position. We see very often patients who have seen practitioners who don’t have a more thorough understanding of X-rays or who don’t refer for imaging where it is necessary, they can often assume a patient’s neck is in a certain position and prescribe certain exercises to help. Often this can involve exercises like chin tucks, where the aim is to directly push the posture of the neck backwards. For the patient where it’s a simple forward head posture but the curve has been retained, this would work quite effectively. It’ll take the pressure off the spine and the base of the skull – it would also help the headaches. But, if you’ve actually lost the curve in the neck and it’s become straight but leaning forwards, this exercise doesn’t instil any curve again and therefore can put the spine in a different position – but an equally bad position as before. It’s important to be mindful of the experience of the practitioner you’re seeing to make sure they fully understand your case and be able to back up why the exercises they’re recommending are specifically good for you.

Resolving Incorrect Spinal Alignment

If you’re experiencing this kind of issue, you really need to find a treatment modality that will take the pressure off the spine, as well as a more long-term treatment strategy to re-instill the curve back into the neck. This will allow you to everyday be doing something that will be opening up these spaces in the neck, not just in a treatment session, so you’re not further irritating the nerves and giving yourself a headache. Here at The Mayfair Clinic, our spinal decompression treatment can be particularly helpful as it cradles the skull as it performs a very gently stretch on the neck to open up that disc space in a very controlled and effective way. For a patient that is compressed in the neck area, this will often feel very relieving and can often give immediate pain relief. Our vibration treatment can be particularly effective on the tight upper back and shoulder muscles that often accompany bad posture, while the laser can help to immediately soothe the area and work deep down to heal any irritation that has occurred. In the long-term, we integrate spinal remodelling using dennerolls into our treatment, so the patient has a tool they can use on a daily basis to re-instill correct posture and move their spine back into a more ideal position to give them relief for the future and reduce any risk of re-injury.

We hope this article has been helpful for you, remember to hit the share options below if you found it useful or you know someone who is suffering from regular headaches or neck pain. If you have any questions about the article, about your specific case, or more in depth about the treatment we offer here at the clinic, do feel free to get in touch with us either by emailing at info@themayfairclinic.com, calling us on 0203 947 3222 or by reaching out to us on our social channels!

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