If you’ve ever experienced a throbbing, relentless headache that seems to originate from your neck and the back of your head, you’re not alone. These headaches stemming from neck issues affect a large portion of the population at one time or another. The intensity and duration of these headaches can vary greatly, leaving many wondering just how long the nagging pain will last. Luckily, understanding what causes these headaches, methods to alleviate pain, and tips to prevent recurrence can help you overcome headaches from neck pain.
What Causes Neck Pain Headaches
Headaches that originate from neck issues, often referred to as cervicogenic headaches, occur for several reasons. Stressing of structures in the neck like muscles, joints, ligaments, and cervical discs often contributes. Poor neck posture adds extra stress. Sudden movements like whiplash from an accident or even frequent hunching over digital devices puts vulnerable neck tissues at risk of damage.
Additionally, referred pain contributes heavily to cervicogenic headaches. Nerve roots exiting the cervical spine have connections to nerves in the head and face. Irritation of cervical nerves from damaged structures can get interpreted by the brain as originating from the head instead. This phenomenon causes primary neck issues manifesting as painful headaches.
How Long Do They Last
The duration of cervicogenic headaches varies substantially based on severity. Acute neck injuries from strains, sprains, or accidents can lead to extremely debilitating pain lasting for several weeks if not properly treated. However, mild cases with only slight muscle tension may dissipate within a few days. Daily reoccurrences over months are also common with underlying arthritis, disc disease, or nerve damage in the cervical spine.
Seeking prompt medical treatment is key to shortening headache duration regardless of severity. Identifying and addressing the root cause facilitates healing. Your physician can prescribe pain medications to make headaches more bearable in the short term as well. Making positive lifestyle changes like improving posture, sleeping position, ergonomics, and managing stress is also essential to prevent cervicogenic headaches from becoming chronic long term.
Methods to Alleviate Pain
Whether your neck pain headaches last for a few days or persist for weeks, having go-to pain relief strategies is crucial. An ice pack or heating pad applied to the neck can help ease muscle tension when used correctly. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium may also curb headache pain. Be cautious combining medications without medical advice.
Seeing a physical therapist or chiropractor can also effectively alleviate neck pain contributing to headaches through modalities like ultrasound, TENS unit therapy, spinal adjustments, and therapeutic stretches and exercises. Getting sufficient rest while avoiding activities exacerbating neck strain is also key. Practicing relaxation techniques, massage, and proper hydration and nutrition aids the healing process too.
Tips to Prevent Recurrence
Suffering through repeated bouts of neck pain and cervicogenic headaches is frustrating yet often preventable. Making sustainable lifestyle changes reduces your risk substantially. Maintaining proper posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping minimizes stress on the fragile cervical spine. Be especially mindful of posture when using phones, tablets, computers, and laptops by keeping ears aligned with shoulders without slouching or straining.
Building strength and flexibility in neck muscles through regular exercise also bolsters support for vulnerable joints. Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, and gentle stretches alleviate tension. Monitoring stress levels and taking frequent movement breaks combats tightness as well. You can further support neck health by managing weight to avoid placing excess strain on the cervical spine. Use ergonomic pillows and chairs tailored to keeping the neck properly aligned. Avoid chiropractic neck adjustments that seem too intense or painful additionally. Implementing these simple yet effective tips will help you overcome headaches from neck pain and avoid recurrence.