If you suffer from headaches or migraines that have been investigated by a medical doctor and there is no known cause, then it is likely that the cause is musculoskeletal. Non-optimal biomechanics specifically in the upper neck and base of the cranium (skull), known as the sub-occipital joints (C1/C2/C3) is often the pain ‘generator’. This is because the sensory nerve supply to the skin and other areas of your head comes from these joints. When there is dysfunction in these areas, your brain is unable to distinguish the difference between a headache as opposed to problems in the neck. This is similar to ‘sciatica’ where the pain is perceived in the leg when it is actually caused by problems in the lower back.

More specifically, these upper neck joints may be hypomobile (stiff), hypermobile (excessive movement) or have poor movement patterns. This will be associated with spasm of the sub-occipital and other muscles that attach from the shoulder girdle, thorax and head to the neck. Such non-optimal biomechanics in this region will cause:
Tension headaches
  • Ice pick headaches (acute pain in the eye region)
  • Cluster headaches
  • Migraines
  • Hormonal headaches and migraines due to the elevated levels in progesterone and low estrogen levels during your pre-menstrual cycles. These changes in your hormones make the mechanoreceptors (joint sensors that give your brain information) extra sensitive - highlighting to your brain that the joints are non-optimal.

  • PhysioMotion
    Other factors that increases tension in this upper neck region will also significantly contribute to neck driven headaches such as physical and emotional stress, fatigue, dehydration and poor postures. Any other regions in the body that is contributing to the poor loading in the neck joints will also be related to the headaches and migraines, for example, a scoliosis in the thoracic spine. Our Physiotherapists will take a holistic approach and include assessment of any other related areas and contributing factors.

    All of our Physiotherapists are extensively trained to treat neck headaches and migraines using specific manual therapy techniques, acupuncture, postural advice including ergonomic workstation assessments and lifestyle modifications. An extensive exercise program to address any stability issues in the neck or any other regions will be prescribed and progressively incorporated into the demands of your lifestyle and sport for long term management.
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