Your neck (cervical spine) is a complex structure of bones, muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves, which support the head. Along with the rest of the spine, it serves an important function in protecting the nerves that run down your back (spinal cord). With the head weighing on average 5kg (11lbs), neck stiffness, muscle tightness, and headaches are very common; with 22-70% of the population being affected by neck pain at least once in their lifetime.
Neck pain and stiffness can be localised but may also radiate to the head causing headaches, or to the upper back, shoulders and arms. If a nerve root in the neck has been irritated, you may also experience pins and needles, numbness, or weakness in your hands, arms, and even down into your legs. Nerve root irritation is usually caused by a bulging disc or ‘wear and tear’ to the facet joints at the back of the spine.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Headaches caused by neck pain
Some types of headaches could be caused by certain neck problems, including injury, inflammation, and chronic neck tension.
Cervicogenic headaches are considered secondary headaches, meaning that they’re caused by other issues, like neck problems.
Some of the potential causes of cervicogenic headaches include:
- Neck injury or trauma
- Malformations of the cervical vertebrae
- Neck Strain
How can Osteopathy help?
Osteopaths can use a wide range of gentle techniques to reduce the muscular tension in the neck and increase movement in the joints of the neck and upper back. Techniques to achieve this may include soft tissue release or joint mobilisation to improve joint movement.
Cranial techniques may be used if required for the treatment of headaches and/or neck pain. This is a very gentle way of treating if stronger techniques are not tolerable; this can be used to slowly release tension within the head and surrounding tissues.
Sometimes we need to treat other areas of the body; including the upper back and shoulders, as the cause of the problem may be stemming from another area (I.e. the neck may be compensating for the upper back).
We will give you advice on how to maintain good posture at work or in the car and advise on stretches and exercises to help loosen the affected muscles, and in the long term, strengthen them if necessary.