Before discussing neck muscles that can cause headaches, it's essential to recognize that headache is a common symptom that can relate to life-threatening causes.
Anyone suffering from headaches should discuss their symptoms with a trained medical professional to ensure serious medical pathological causes of headaches are excluded before assuming lifestyle-related muscular factors we will discuss might apply to them. None of the information provided is to substitute for appropriate medical evaluation of headaches. The information provided should only be considered after serious medical pathological causes for headaches have been discussed with and excluded by a trained medical provider.
Most of us are familiar with the phenomenon where a distressed heart muscle refers pain into the patient's left arm, neck, or jaw during a heart attack. Similarly, neck muscles can trick the brain into feeling a sensation in the head and face when they are irritated. Different neck muscles have demonstrated an ability to produce sensations in relatively consistent patterns; in headache speak, we call these patterns "referral patterns." Understanding these key neck muscular referral patterns allows a chiropractor, acupuncturist, or other similar practitioners to target treatment appropriately.
Typical sensations patients will report from an irritated neck muscle can include pain, ache, tingling, pressure, or numb sensations. When discussing headaches, you will come across the terms frontal, maxillary, temporal, occipital, parietal, auricular and vertex. These terms are used to describe the areas of the head in which a patient reports perceiving their sensation symptoms.
"Vertex" is the term used to describe sensations reported by a patient at the top of the head. While vertex pain can be produced from many sources and conditions (and why you need to discuss your headaches with your doctor), it can also commonly be associated with a muscular referral from an irritated Splenius Capitis muscle.
To test for an irritated Splenius Capitis muscle is relatively simple and involves a trained professional familiar with the anatomy, such as your chiropractor or acupuncturist, applying pressure to the suspect muscle. If the pressure increases or reproduces symptoms in the referral distribution, this muscle is likely part of the problem.
If the depiction of Splenius Capitis referral looks like how you feel, we'd be happy to assess you. If we determine Splenius Capitis is indeed a culprit in your headache context, we will provide you with appropriate ergonomic advice, exercises, and focused treatment.
It is not uncommon for patients to have multiple factors contributing to a headache presentation, particularly if a patient suffers from migraine and or has suffered neck trauma such as whiplash from a car accident. We recognize the complexity of headaches at our office. As such, we regularly work collaboratively with other health providers to add our strengths to theirs.
If you feel your headaches are getting the best of you, our chiropractors and collaborative approach will aim to tip the balance in your favour. Book with one of our chiropractors now to see if we can help better manage your headache symptoms.