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headaches and diminished movement of the neck


Headache Neck Pain

Strecosa – Deutsch – Pixabay

It is a long-proven fact that diminished ROM (Range Of Motion) of the Cervical Spine (neck) is the most common cause of headaches — most particularly, a class of headaches known as ‘Tension Headaches’.  Tension Headaches are frequently described as constant pressure on the head, and can be both chronic and severe.  Most commonly, the pain will start at the base of the skull, where the neck and skull come together.  As the headaches get worse, the pain moves over the back of the skull and tends to settle in pattern that could best be described as the Lone Ranger’s mask.

According to a 1991 study published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Tension Headaches account for a whopping 90% of all headaches.  The pharmaceutical industry is making a killing on this common problem, with annual sales of these various products reaching into the billions of dollars.    Fortunately, the past two decades has produced a great deal of scientific research telling us not only that over the counter pain meds are far more dangerous than we have historically been led to believe, but that there are effective alternatives to these drugs. There is a significant body of evidence (both empirical and anecdotal) for manipulative therapies such as CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS being able to people who struggle with chronic headaches.

Although the medical community likes to claim that Tension Headaches are brought on by things like lack of sleep, poor posture, LOW BLOOD SUGAR, eyestrain, or any number of others (stress is the most common scapegoat), this is not completely accurate. Although any of the things listed above can trigger a Tension Headache, I would argue that the underlying cause of the headaches frequently has to do with restricted joint motion.  And while it is certainly true that stress can cause the muscular tension that in turn causes headaches, it is also true that the majority of us are under all sorts of daily stress, yet do not struggle with chronic headaches.  It’s sort of like trying to blame germs for disease.  If germs were really the source of all disease, why won’t everyone in a third grade classroom get sick when the flu makes the rounds?  There are other factors at play.   But I regress — we are talking about ROM and headaches.


The question that I asked myself repeatedly during the first decade of practice is why?  Why would so many patients with Chronic Neck Pain and / or Headaches respond so well to Chiropractic Adjustments, while other patients with seemingly identical exam findings, x-ray findings, and lab work, would not.  Until I started doing TISSUE REMODELING a dozen years ago, I honestly had no idea.   Now; instead of seeing a 70% success rate with Chronic Headache Patients, we are doing much better.

This has to do with the fact that so many Chronic Headache Patients are (unknowingly) struggling with FASCIAL ADHESIONSImagine for a moment what would happen if modern medical technology was unable to image the most pain-sensitive tissue in the body.  Now imagine that this pain-sensitive tissue was found literally everywhere in the body — one of the more abundant of the COLLAGEN-BASED CONNECTIVE TISSUES.  This is exactly what is happening.  The single most pain-sensitive tissue in the body (Fascia) cannot be imaged with current MRI technology.  What does this mean for you?  It means that when you go to the doctor(s) / specialist(s) to find out why you are having headaches, you will likely be told (after having gone through $25,000 worth of tests) that there is nothing really wrong with you — other than, “Well Mrs. Smith, you just aren’t as young as you used to be.”  Or, “Gee Mrs. Jones, no one really knows why some people get headaches and other people do not.”  Or the newest favorite, “You’ll just have to blame your parents for those bad genes they passed on to you.

(A Case History)

I recently had a young woman (early 20’s) come to me with Chronic Headaches.  Her headaches had been going on for several years, and she was seeing a chiropractor frequently (not as frequently as SHELINA, but far more frequently than is good for a person).  She was a tiny little thing, with no history of trauma, MVA, SPORTS, abuse, etc, etc.  Her posture, while not perfect, was not bad.  And on top of all this, the ROM of her Cervical Spine measured within normal limits.  She could easily get her nose over her shoulder without any sort of difficulty or overt discomfort. 

For whatever reason (a hunch maybe; or maybe just experience), I checked her for Scar Tissue despite any real objective findings that would lead me in this direction.  Needless to say, she had some of the most brutal Scar Tissue / Fascial Adhesions I have ever seen — huge tears running one on top of the other from the very top of her neck clear down into the middle part of her back.  After treating her, I rechecked Ranges of Motion.  When she turned her head to the side, her nose was actually back behind her shoulder bilaterally.  She felt an instant relief even though her Range of Motion was technically ‘OK’ to begin with (HERE).  This is just another reminder that everyone is different as far as what a ‘normal’ range of motion is, and there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to treating patients (HERE).



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