Headaches

More than 15 million Americans suffer from recurring headaches with no obvious cause. For so many in the Des Moines area, pain pills only provide temporary relief and the headaches come back. 

Many of these headaches are at least partially caused by dysfunction in the structures of the upper neck. Your head is essentially an eight to ten pound weight balanced on top of the neck. The vertebrae (bones of the spinal column) and discs in the neck bear the weight of the head, while muscles, ligaments, and joints control and limit movement of the neck. Many daily activities result in a position where the head is relatively far out in front of the shoulders and the upper neck is extended or bent backwards. This position greatly increases tension in the muscles on the back of the neck and can also stress or irritate the joints of the neck. Muscle tension and joint irritation in the upper neck can result in pain in the head.

Check the Three P’s of Neck-Related Headaches to find out if your headaches are related to dysfunction in your upper neck:

1) Posture – Your ear should be lined up with the tip of your shoulder when viewed from the side. Have someone check your standing posture. If your ear is far in front of the tip of your shoulder, your neck muscles are working harder than they should be all the time. If headaches get worse after driving or working in front of the computer, posture is probably a factor.

2) Position – When you have a headache, bend your head forward and backward slowly. Rotate your head to the right and left slowly. Bend your head side to side slowly. Increased headache pain on slow movement or at the end of the range of motion indicates that neck joint or muscle dysfunction is affecting your head.

3) Painful Points – When you have a headache, poke around your upper neck with your fingers. Are there tender areas that make your headache worse when you press on them? These painful points indicate that neck dysfunction is related to the pain in your head.

At Compass Chiropractic, we will take a comprehensive history and perform a thorough examination to determine the source of your pain. A plan will be formed specifically for you which may include spinal adjustments, ART on tight muscles in the neck and at the base of the head, and exercises and stretches to restore neck muscle function and posture. You may be custom fitted for a pillow if it is determined that improper neck support while sleeping is a source of your pain.

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