Can Shoulder and Neck Pain Cause My Headaches?



Let’s talk about headaches…

Whether it’s the mid-afternoon pounding headache or an agonizing pain that leaves you sensitive to light and feeling sick, headaches are something most of us have experienced at one point or another.

But for some, headaches are a much larger problem and can even affect everyday life….

Brenda, a patient of ours, wrote us an email before coming into the clinic to see us:

“Hi all,

I’m 61 and have been suffering from occasional migraines ever since I was a teenager, but I have never been able to get to the root of the problem.

In the past, I just thought my migraines were due to stress or lack of sleep. Now, I think it might be something that I’m eating instead.

So I stopped eating the foods that are ‘known’ to set off headaches, like cheese and chocolate…. But nothing has changed!

I don’t know if this is true, but I heard that tension in your shoulders can sometimes cause headaches?

Is this right or am I being silly? Do I get headaches because of something I’m eating? I’m tired of getting migraines when I least expect them! It’s awful when they strike in the middle of playing with my grandkids.”

Brenda, 61

Can Shoulder and Neck Pain Cause My Headaches?

Brenda certainly was right about tension in your neck and shoulder is related to this common problem.

Would you find it hard to believe if we told you that 87% of headaches come from tight and tense muscles in your shoulders and neck? You’re not alone. Most people don’t realize that it has almost nothing to do with the foods that we eat.

Instead, the culprit is often tension in your neck that you never even knew existed in the first place.

Mainly because you’re just so used to it. Or you just brush it to the side thinking a “stiff neck” just comes as part of the package of getting older.

But, if you ever find yourself resting your head in an awkward position while watching T.V., if you lean your head forward when you read before bed, or even stick your neck forward when using your phone or computer…

You’re causing your neck to become strained and tired, which only means one thing- lots of tension!

This is exactly what was going on with our patient Brenda. For years Brenda was working at an office job where she spent hours each day leaning her neck forward looking at a computer screen. No wonder that when we helped to ease her neck tension, her migraines became less and less of a regular occurrence!

Watch this video to learn exercises to help relieve headache pain.

So What Can Be Done For Shoulder Tension?

Now, we know that if your job requires working at a computer, you’re not going to be able to suddenly stop looking at one. And we aren’t going to tell you to stop reading or to never watch TV again. But, what we are going to tell you about are two things that you can start doing today to help ease the neck tension that leads to all sorts of headaches.

  • 1. Be aware of your neck positioning. If you notice that your neck is pushed forwards, tuck your chin in towards your neck to help keep it straight and in the right position.
  • 2. Relax in a warm bath. Muscles love to be warm. And warm muscles mean less tension. So, run yourself a nice warm bath, lay back and relax.

If you find yourself sick of headaches stopping you in your tracks, or headaches that appear out of nowhere, feel free to give our team a call or text! 623.486.3333.

And in the meantime, if you’d like more tips on ways to ease neck tension, read our FREE report:

Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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