Overview of Head and Neck Issues

Overview of Head and Neck Pain

Neck pain and headaches are often connected with one another, but both can exist separately on their own too. Headaches and stiff necks are part of life, but when pain is severe or lasts for a long time, you may need professional help.

Neck pain and headaches are usually related to lack of support from muscles and ligaments or nerve irritation due to a spinal condition. Physical therapists can help reduce pain in many of these cases with treatments that can improve your neck’s ability to support itself and your head and to help relieve pressure from the nerves.

Continue reading to learn more about head and neck pain, their symptoms, what causes them and when you should seek professional treatment.

Symptoms of neck pain

Neck pain is usually related to strain or overuse. This kind of pain is mild and should last for no more than a few days. However, some neck pain can be related to something more serious. Pay attention to these symptoms to know when you should seek help for your neck pain:

  • Dull and achy or sharp pain that is severe or lasts for long periods of time
  • Pain increases when holding your neck in a specific position
  • Limited motion of the head and neck
  • Tightness in the muscles of your neck that may spread into your shoulders
  • Headaches

Symptoms of head pain

Headaches can occur for many reasons and not all of them are emergency situations. Neck pain can be related to more serious conditions, though, so you should know the signs to look for to know when you need to get help:

  • Pain is severe or lasts longer than a few days
  • You feel weak or numb on one side of your body
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty speaking, seeing or walking
  • Fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher

Causes of neck pain

Minor neck pain may be caused by poor posture or sleeping in an awkward position, but chronic neck pain is caused by:

  • Strains — Although poor posture can cause short-term neck pain, it can also lead to chronic pain. Too many hours with your head down looking at a computer screen or your cell phone can strain the muscles and cause pain in your neck.
  • Arthritis — Arthritis breaks down the cartilage in your joints, including those of your spine, which causes pain and loss of mobility.
  • Slipped discs — The discs between your vertebrae that cushion your vertebrae can slip or burst, which puts painful pressure on the nerve in your spine.
  • Traumatic injury — A hard impact or whiplash can cause injury to your spine or the muscles and ligaments in your neck, resulting in pain and loss of mobility.
  • Severe illness — A serious disease like meningitis or cancer can cause pain.

Causes of head pain

Some headaches are minor and require no more than rest and pain medication, but other cases of neck pain are related to serious causes, such as:

  • Concussions
  • Dehydration
  • Blood clots
  • High blood pressure
  • Meningitis
  • Stroke
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning and more

Diagnosing neck pain and head pain

A medical professional can examine your symptoms and perform some tests to analyze the cause of your neck pain or head pain. Some of the tests that physicians use to diagnose your condition include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Blood analysis
  • EMG – Electromyography, which measures nerve function

Treating neck pain and head pain

As mentioned before, neck pain and head pain are often connected with one another. The inability of your neck muscles and ligaments to support your head can put pressure on the nerves, which lead to headaches. There are eight nerves that spread from your spinal cord throughout your head and neck and shoulders, so it’s likely that discomfort to one of these nerves can affect your head and neck.

Treatments for neck pain and head pain may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Massage and hands-on therapy – Manipulating the neck through massage, movement or trigger point therapy.
  • Ultrasound – Physical therapists now use ultrasound to break up scar tissue and help your injury.
  • Targeted exercises – Specific stretching exercises help strengthen muscles around your neck will help you regain your muscular endurance for everyday life.
  • Ergonomic recommendations – If you have a job that requires you to sit at a computer, or otherwise exacerbate your neck pain, your physical therapists may suggest modifications  that can be added to your daily routine, and even to your desk and chair that will help prevent further injury.

Treating neck and head pain at Advent Physical Therapy

Advent Physical Therapy has been helping patients with conditions like head and neck pain for more than 20 years. Contact us if you are suffering from head or neck pain and would like treatment. Our team can help you reduce your pain and restore your quality of life.