If you’ve ever experienced a headache that stems from tension or soreness in your neck, you know how painful and debilitating it can be. Unlike ordinary headaches, neck-related headaches happen when the muscles and nerves in your neck and head become aggravated, inflamed, or compressed. This often leads to throbbing or dull aches that can extend to the back of your head or your temples. The good news is that with a multi-pronged approach of lifestyle changes, home remedies, and medical treatment if needed, you can ease headache pain caused by neck issues.
Start With Lifestyle Tweaks
Often, headaches from neck tension are our body’s way of telling us to take a break and pay attention to factors that contribute to the strain. Make sure you’re:
- Maintaining good posture at work and at home to avoid slumping your neck and head forward for too long. Stand up and move around to give your muscles a break.
- Sleeping on a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck aligned with your spine. Consider a contoured memory foam cervical pillow.
- Getting 30 to 60 minutes of low-impact exercise like walking, yoga, or swimming 2-3 times a week to improve circulation, boost endorphins, and relax the neck.
Apply Hot and Cold Therapy
Simple home remedies using heat and cold can stimulate blood flow to tense neck muscles, loosen them up, and dull nerve pain signals causing your headache. Try:
- A hot shower, heating pad, or microwavable neck wrap for 10 to 15 minutes to relax tight muscles.
- Cold compresses like gel packs or even bags of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel applied to tense neck and shoulder areas for 15 minutes at a time.
- Alternating hot and cold by ending a hot shower with 30 seconds of cool water.
Massage and Stretch Out Knots
Myofascial muscle release through massage and stretching helps ease muscle tightness and trigger points that can contribute to referred pain leading to headaches.
- Use a tennis or massage ball against a wall or floor to apply pressure to tense neck and shoulder areas for 30 seconds before moving to a new spot.
- Learn stretches and exercises to target the levator scapulae, upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid muscles, and pec minor of your neck and shoulders. Opening up these areas brings relief.
- Consider booking appointments for professional deep tissue, trigger point therapy, or dry needling to release myofascial knots.
For more stubborn headaches, over-the-counter oral medications can help reduce inflammation and dampen pain signals. Always follow label instructions. Options include:
- NSAID pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen to fight inflammation.
- Acetaminophen to curb headache pain specifically.
- Muscle relaxants containing ingredients like cyclobenzaprine or methocarbamol to loosen neck spasms.
See Your Doctor if Needed
Schedule an appointment with your physician if intense headaches persist for more than a few days despite self-care and OTC meds. They may prescribe muscle relaxants, refer you to physical therapy for neck stabilization exercises, or order imaging tests to assess if an underlying cervical spine condition is at play. Botox injections to paralyze stiff neck muscles or nerve block therapies are other options for stubborn migraine or cervicogenic headaches from neck issues.
The takeaway is that reversing poor posture, stretching out tight areas, managing stress levels, and having patience with gradual lifestyle changes and home remedies can all help mitigate headaches stemming from neck tightness or strain. But don’t hesitate to involve your doctor if debilitating symptoms linger. Getting to the root cause with specialized care can bring you lasting relief.