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Neck Pain Treatment San Diego

Holly Jolly, pain in the neck?

Although the holidays are typically a time of joy and celebrating family, they also can cause some serious stress. Late night gift wrapping, driving long distances to see family, changes in diet and workout as well as schedules can all affect how well one feels at this time of the year. This post is going to explore headaches, their causes, and what you (and a physical therapist) can do to make them go away.

Did you know that headaches affect 99% of the population at some point in their lives? Cervicogenic Headaches and Muscle Tension Headaches are the most common types of headaches and together they account for 60-80% of all headaches. These headaches are “referred pain syndromes” due to sharing a nerve supply with structures in the neck.

What is a Tension Headache? This headache is typically caused by sustained contraction of the muscles in the neck. This miss firing of the muscles can be caused by a variety of issues including-poor posture, previous neck injury, prolonged sitting or driving and excessive stress.

What is a Cervicogenic Headache? These headaches come from either the joints or discs within the upper cervical area that refer pain to the head. Common causes include: whiplash-type injuries commonly suffered in motor vehicle accidents or stiffness/stress associated with poor sitting posture.

How can I get rid of my headaches? Comprehensive physical therapy assessment is a good place to start. The therapist will look at your strength, range of motion, and perform tests to decide what is at the root cause of your headache. Then he/she will set you up with a plan to decrease and even eliminate headaches. You can typically expect this plan to include:

1) “Hands-On” mobilization of stiff joints, gentle traction techniques and myofascial release of tight muscles. These techniques will begin to restore normal movement and relieve pressure on the structures referring pain to the head. 2) Specific Exercise Program that strengthens the weak muscles and stretches the stiff or tight muscles. The exercise program allows you to maintain the benefit of the manual treatment. This is what separates physical therapy from other treatment options that do not utilize exercise. 3) Postural and Ergonomic Education. It is important to identify and correct the “cause” of the problem. Good physical therapy will educate the patient in how to prevent recurrence and avoid postures or activities that cause headaches.

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