Chronic Neck Pain and Headache Relief

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Headaches, Neck Pain

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Chronic Neck Pain and Headaches Can Ruin Your Day

neck pain and headacheActually, chronic neck pain and headaches will do more than ruin your day.It can interfere with your daily activities and cause you to stop doing the things you enjoy. If you are an athlete, it can cause you to slow down so much that you stop doing all the sports you enjoy, and can have a serious impact on your career.

Yet, when the medical profession is searching for solutions to chronic neck pain and headaches, muscles are rarely considered.  This is a major oversight.  In fact, muscles cause a high percentage of chronic headaches, and almost all neck pains.  The good news is, they are relatively simple to self-treat successfully!

First let’s take a look at your neck so it will be clear why muscles can cause chronic headaches.

Your cervical vertebrae start at the base of your skull. C1 is called “the Atlas” because it holds up your skull just as Atlas held up the world.

spineC2 has a bone in it that comes through the center of C1. The bone is called the “dens” and your skull sits on the point of it.  It is because of this arrangement that you can turn your head left and right.

These two vertebrae are key to chronic headaches that are so severe they can be blinding.

Take a look at the muscle that is labeled “levator scapulae.”  Nicknamed “the shrug muscle,” because it lifts up your shoulders, it originates on C1-4, although the greatest problem is with the C1-2 points.  As your levator scapulae muscle gets tight, it pulls the two vertebrae to the side and down.  This causes the bone to press into your spinal cord at the very base of your skull where it exits from your brain and begins its journey down to your tailbone.

The bone pressing into your spinal cord will cause horrific chronic headaches.  And, as the muscle is also putting a strain on your shoulder, you will feel pain and tension right where your neck meets the top of your shoulder.

Chronic Headaches Can Be Caused By Poor Posture

Chronic headaches are often caused by a posture that is common lately because of looking down at our cell phones and computers.

Notice the graphics on the left, and then imagine the 42 lb head on the right not only putting a strain on the entire cervical spine, but since you are looking down, it is also having the heavy skull putting a twist onto the first two cervical vertebrae.

You can imagine what is happening to your spinal cord under these circumstances. The pressure is severe, and a chronic headache will result.

Chronic Neck Pain and Headache Treatment That Works

Here is a two-step Julstro self-treatment method that works. First lean your head back and grasp the muscle at the back of your neck.

neck pain treatmentThis is easier to do when you have a headache as it will be thick and tight, but if you want to work at preventing a chronic headache, you’ll need to move your head around so the muscle can be felt.

If you don’t have a headache, just take your flat fingertips and press directly into the muscle fiber.  Hold the pressure for 30 seconds, let go, and then press again.

Next take the three middle fingers of your opposite hand (ie: If you are treating the left side of your neck, use the three fingers on your right hand and press directly into your tight muscle.)

Hold the pressure for 30 seconds and then just move 1-finger width down the muscle and start over again.

chronic neck pain and headache reliefGo from the base of your skull all the way to the top of your shoulder.  If you have a chronic headache, the muscle will stand out and you’ll have no problem finding it.

Work on both sides of your neck, even if the chronic headache pain is only on one side of your head.

Stretch the muscles by holding the pressure on the muscle and then bringing your head down toward your chest.

Follow these steps for chronic neck pain and headache relief.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

 

About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

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One of the Little known Causes of Headaches

Posted August 15, 2017 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Your Sleeping Position May Be Causing Your Headaches!

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

Can sleeping position be one of the causes of headaches?  

A Sleeping position that has your head tilted puts pressure on your spinal cord and will cause headaches. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times, and the reasoning is so logical it’s easy to understand.

causes of headachesYour spinal cord runs from your brain, through each of your vertebrae, down your arms and legs. Nerves pass out of the vertebrae and go to every cell in your body, including each of your organs. When you are sleeping it is important to keep your head, neck, and spine in a horizontal plane so you aren’t straining the muscles that insert into your vertebrae.

The graphic above is a close-up of your skull and the cervical (neck) vertebrae. Your nerves are shown in yellow, and your artery is shown in red.  Consider what happens if you hold your head to one side for hours. You can notice that the nerves and artery will likely be press upon. Also, since your spinal cord comes down the inside of the vertebrae, it will also be impinged.

In 2004 the Archives of Internal Medicine published an article stating that 1 out of 13 people have morning headaches. It’s interesting to note that the article never mentions the spinal cord being impinged by the vertebrae. That’s a major oversight!

Muscles merge into tendons, and the tendons insert into the bone.  As you stayed in the tilted position for hours, the muscles actually shortened to the new length.  Then you try to turn over, but the short muscles are holding your cervical vertebrae tightly, and they can’t lengthen.

The weight of your head pulls on the vertebrae, putting even more pressure on your spinal cord and nerves.  Plus, the tight muscles are pulling on the bones, causing pain on the bone.

Your Pillow is Involved in Your Sleeping Position and the Causes of  Headaches

sleep left side

The analogy I always use is; just as pulling your hair hurts your scalp, the muscle pulling on the tendons hurts the bone where it inserts.  In this case it is your neck muscles putting a strain on your cervical bones.  For example, if you sleep on your left side and your pillow is too thick, your head will be tilted up toward the ceiling. This position tightens the muscles on the right side of your neck.

sleeping in car and desk

Dozing off while sitting in a car waiting for someone to arrive, or while working for hours at your desk can also horizontal line sleepcause headaches. The pictures above show a strain on the neck when you fall asleep without any support on your neck. Both of these people will wake up with a headache, and with stiffness in their neck.

The best sleeping position to prevent headaches is to have your pillow adjusted so your head, neck, and spine are in a horizontal line. Play with your pillows, putting two thin pillows into one case if necessary. If your pillow is too thick try to open up a corner and pull out some of the stuffing.

 

sleeping on stomachSleeping on Your Back & Stomach

If you sleep on your back and have your head on the mattress, your spine is straight. All you need is a little neck pillow for support, and a pillow under your knees.

Stomach sleeping is the worst sleeping position for not only headaches, but so many other aches and pains. It’s a tough habit to break, but it can be done. This sleeping position deserves its own blog, which I will do in the future.

 

Treating the Muscles That Cause Headaches

sleeping position causes of headachesAll of the muscles that originate or insert into your cervical vertebrae, and many that insert into your shoulder and upper back, need to be treated.  The treatments are all taught in Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living, in the neck and shoulder chapters.  Here is one treatment that will help you get relief.

Take either a tennis ball or the Perfect Ball (which really is Perfect because it has a solid center and soft outside) and press into your shoulder as shown.  You are treating a muscle called Levator Scapulae which pulls your cervical vertebrae out of alignment when it is tight.

Hold the press for about 30 seconds, release, and then press again.

Your pillow is a key to neck pain and headaches caused by your sleeping position.  It’s worth the time and energy to investigate how you sleep and correct your pillow.  I believe this blog will help you find the solution and will insure you have restful sleep each night.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

About The Author

julie donnelly

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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