Neck Pain
Diagram - Neck Pain
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Headaches and Neck Pain

Headaches

Headaches are the number one health complaint in America as 90% of the population will have a headache this year and 50 million Americans suffer from chronic daily headaches. There are many causes of headaches; therefore it is imperative you have a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare provider for your headache, especially if it is a first headache or a different type of headache than you have had previously. Your primary care physician should evaluate you to rule out the more serious and possibly life threatening causes of headaches.

Neck Pain

Neck pain is one of the most frequent causes of visits to health care providers. Most commonly neck pain results from an acute trauma or chronic stress (from posture) placed upon the muscles within the neck. Less frequently neck pain results from impingement of the nerves, which exit out of the spine within the neck. Anyone experiencing numbness, tingling, nausea, dizziness or changes in vision associated with their neck pain should be thoroughly evaluated to rule out cervical impingement of the nerves or blood vessels within the neck.

The most common cause of neck pain results from weakened muscles and poor posture. A forward head posture results in strain of the posterior muscles of the neck. This is commonly observed while driving, working on a computer, talking on a telephone or sitting at a desk. Having improper pillow support can also be a cause of neck pain. The pain is felt as a tight aching pain felt in the back of the neck and shoulders. Commonly this pain is felt as facial pain or a headache that comes up the back of the head to in and around the eyes. What is not frequently realized is that many of the muscles of the anterior neck control the jaw and tongue. Pain in these muscles can refer pain into the face and teeth, and can feel like swollen glands or a lump in the throat. This can give the voice hoarseness and cause difficulty in swallowing. Additionally, the pain nerves that innervate the jaw muscles and TMJ also join with the nerves of the neck in the brain stem. So jaw pain can ramp up the nerves that cause neck pain and vice versa. Additionally, the jaw muscles are used to stabilize the head position, and during jaw movements there are small concurrent movements within the upper cervical vertebra. Therefore dysfunction within the neck structures commonly leads to problems within the jaw.

Most treatments are aimed at encouraging the normal range of motion of the joints and muscles within the neck and decreasing the aggravating factors. Surgery is only indicated where there is clear evidence that a disk or vertebrae is out of place and causing the pain and dysfunction. Even then, just like with jaw disorders, more conservative treatments should be attempted initially.