Published 1/15/2018 – Original Article
In my article last week I described the suboccipital area, a vitally important part of the neck. This week we will take a deeper look at this area and why when it’s not working properly it’s the most common culprit in causing headaches.
Headaches will affect everyone at some point. About 18% of adults have severe headaches and 90% of people will experience a headache at some time in life. The headache we are looking at is the classic tension headache.
The tension headache typically starts at the base of the neck and moves to the forehead. This headache usually happens after a bout of stress, either emotional or physical.
As you recall, a ligament is designed to keep things in place. It’s like a wrap holding bones together. If you stretch a ligament too much the joint will become loose. This looseness requires the muscles to work harder. When these muscles work harder it can create inflammation in the area, and this makes nerve endings fire more easily. This information to the brain is usually interpreted by the brain as pain – the headache.
The series of small joints in the suboccipital area all need to do their part. If one or two get subluxated then the others will need to work harder than they are designed to. This will, over time, cause ligaments to loosen and the headache cycle begins.
There are many ways ligaments can loosen:
- prolonged flexion of the neck
- looking at your device too long
- sleeping with a bad pillow
- doing excessive overhead work
Ok, now the good news: this problem is preventable! Simply, don’t rest on your ligaments. Don’t move your head to its end range of motion and stay there. Don’t sleep on the couch with your neck bent as far as it will go. Don’t spend hours staring at your device (or book) without changing your position.
So what do you do if you have subluxation in the upper neck? First you need to have it evaluated by your doctor of chiropractic. It’s important to understand which joints are dysfunctional. Second, follow the comprehensive plan designed by your chiropractor to get proper movement restored to the neck. Once this happens the headaches will be greatly reduced or eliminated.