• mendmtphysio

3 Tips for Migraines & Headaches: A Pain in the Neck

Migraines and headaches can be debilitating and are more common than many of us realize. Migraines are the 7th most common cause of disability worldwide. Aside from the prevalence of migraines, there is also a stigma associated with the disorder that increases the burden on those living with migraines. Many people do not understand the differences between migraines and other headache-disorders and just how disabling they all can be. Even fewer people understand the relationship between migraines & headaches to the cervical spine/neck.

The upper portions of your cervical spine (C1-C3) share a neurological connection with the nerves of the face and head. This connection is often referred to as the trigeminocervical complex due to the connection of the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve responsible for sensation of the face and head as well as the muscles used for chewing) and the upper cervical nerves. Understanding this connection can be crucial in improving your migraines & headaches. For some, this connection seems obvious as many people living with migraines & headaches also have neck pain and/or jaw pain. The point is, it is all connected!

So, how does this help you? This information empowers you with the knowledge to understand that there is another avenue for the treatment of migraines & headaches. If you have been struggling with migraines and/or headaches, a physiotherapist can listen to your unique experience, assess your musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems for dysfunction related to your symptoms, provide you with an individualized self-treatment plan, and empower you with the education necessary to better understand your symptoms and how to improve them independently.

3 Quick Tips for People Living with Migraines & Headaches:

  1. Treating the muscles of the jaw, neck and upper back with gentle massage and other soft-tissue techniques can provide some relieving input to your muscles and nervous system and reduce your migraines and headaches.

  2. When using electronic devices, try to avoid spending too much time with your head looking straight down at your phone, or jutting your head forward to look at your computer screen. Try to set up your devices and work stations in a way that promote sitting or standing upright with your head comfortably balanced on top of your shoulders with your arms supported and relaxed.

  3. Time for some pillow talk... sometimes we can sleep in wild positions that may leave us waking with a stiff and painful neck that can lead to, or worsen, a headache. Setting up your pillows in a way that supports your head and neck in a mostly "neutral" position may be another easy way to improve your health and symptoms. This may look like 2-pillows for those who are side-sleepers or 1-pillow for those who sleep on their back, this may even mean 0 pillows! The number of pillows may be different from person to person and pillow to pillow, but the end goal is the same... neutral head and neck positioning.

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