Can Neck Pain Cause Tension Headaches?
If you struggle with episodic or chronic tension headaches, you know just how disruptive they can be. For many people, tension headaches seem to come out of nowhere and may last a full 24 hours, if not longer, making everyday activities both frustrating and difficult. Unlike some other types of headaches, you may actually be able to reduce the frequency or severity of your tension headaches – or get rid of them altogether – with simple behavioral modification.
Orthopedic expert Dr. Christopher Williams and the award-winning team at Interventional Orthopedics of Atlanta understand the problematic nature of tension headaches and can help you identify the potential cause of your pain, and provide treatment and recommendations for rapid, long-lasting relief. Learn more about one of the most common causes of tension headaches – neck pain – and how you may be able to improve your symptoms without prescription medication or invasive treatment.
What is a tension headache?
Tension headaches are typically characterized by dull pain on both sides of the head. Most patients describe a tension headache as feeling similar to the sensation of a vice or band wrapped tightly around the head near the level of the forehead. For some people, tension headaches may produce only mild to moderate pain, while other times, a tension headache can be severe and even cause sound or light sensitivity. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a tension headache include:
- Dull, constant pain
- Pain on both sides of the head
- Tenderness on the scalp
- Painful pressure in the forehead
What causes tension headaches?
While both men and women can suffer from tension headaches, they typically affect women more often. There are a variety of possible causes and triggers for tension headaches, and oftentimes more than one factor is responsible for an episode. Among the most common causes of tension headaches are:
- Poor posture
- Lack of sleep (fatigue)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar caused by skipping meals)
- Eye strain
- Clenching your teeth
How does neck pain cause tension headaches?
Even though neck pain and muscle strain are among the most common causes of tension headaches, many men and women are unaware of this connection and, as a result, are left frustrated by recurrent episodes and ineffective treatments. Neck pain, which can be related to poor posture, muscle strain, stress, and other factors, often causes the muscles and other tissues in the neck, head, and scalp to become tense. Prolonged tension and strain from neck pain can produce widespread pain and tenderness and, ultimately, a tension headache.
How are tension headaches treated?
Depending on the cause of your tension headache, Dr. Williams may recommend various treatment techniques. In some cases, at-home remedies, including ice and/or heat and over-the-counter medications, may be adequate for resolving a tension headache. However, it is important to understand the possible culprit of your pain and address that issue for your best chance at relief. For example, if lack of sleep or skipping meals are contributing to your headaches, you may benefit by simply getting more sleep and eating more regularly. Additionally, tension headaches caused specifically by neck pain or muscle strain may respond to behavioral modification techniques, including:
- Changing your posture
- Trying a new pillow and/or sleeping position
- Elevating your computer screen or laptop
- Taking frequent breaks at work
- Stretching and adjusting your neck regularly
- Resting your eyes
- Decreasing stress levels
When over-the-counter remedies and behavioral modification don’t improve a patient’s tension headache symptoms, Dr. Williams may recommend more extensive treatments, including prescription medications and/or physical therapy. If patients are suffering from additional orthopedic conditions that contribute to chronic muscle pain, headaches, and other painful or disruptive symptoms, it may be appropriate to explore minimally invasive therapies, such as Regenexx® cellular therapy (e.g. platelet rich plasma or bone marrow stem cells).
During your initial consultation for tension headaches in Atlanta, GA, Dr. Williams will thoroughly evaluate and discuss your symptoms, take a detailed health history, and answer all of your questions in order to determine the most likely cause(s) of your pain and recommend the best course of treatment for rapid, reliable, long-lasting relief.
It may be easier than you think to get rid of neck pain and tension headaches in Atlanta, GA
Whether you struggle with chronically recurrent tension headaches or only get them a few times a year, the pain and frustration they cause can be debilitating. If your headaches recur regularly despite appropriate treatment, they may be related to something as simple as your posture or stress level. Call the exceptional team at Interventional Orthopedics of Atlanta to schedule your private in-office or virtual consultation with Dr. Christopher Williams today, and learn more about neck pain, tension headaches, and the role that behavioral modification may play in providing life-changing pain relief.