Although completely ignored by standard medicine, tension of muscles around the head and neck is a very common reason for headaches and migraines.
Muscle tension is a common cause for headaches
Evidence points to muscular tension as the number one cause behind chronic tension-type and migraine headaches. In fact 80% of chronic pain in people is caused or exaggerated by excessive muscle tension. This is especially true for pain that has deep dull aching or pressing quality.
Studies have shown that migraine sufferers particularly those not experiencing aura frequently have multiple foci (small spots) of tension in the neck muscles. What’s more, increased headache intensity is associated with increased tenderness and tension of the neck muscles.
Headaches can start in the neck
If you have chronic migraines your probability of having tense muscles in the neck is high, and very high if you are suffering from tension-type headache. Why your doctor didn’t tell you that? Because muscle tension does not show up on x-rays, MRIs, blood or urine tests.
Foci of muscular tension can be found only by palpation (finger testing) of each muscle. Try it. Poke and press your fingers around your neck base, and your scull rim on top of the neck. Take your time.
Go along shoulders, back of neck, side of neck, above eyebrows, above ears. Test your entire head and neck area. If it is hard to reach for you ask somebody else to do it. You may be surprised how many tender spots you have. These spots show up more when you are tense, stressed or anxious. Overwork and lack of exercise will exacerbate them as well.
What`s wrong with your neck?
What are those spots? You can imagine that these tender foci are like muscle micro-injuries. Originally they could have been caused by trauma, overuse, sudden jerking movement, or poor posture.
To get them you do not need to be in a car accident. A visit to a dentist or carrying your heavy bag on your shoulders can do it. Foci are aggravated by lack of exercise, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and cold. Is your headache or migraine worse during cold rainy weather? Hmm… here is a clue.
It is possible to permanently remove those foci. Yet, you will not be able to do it yourself. Removing these spots require good understanding of muscular anatomy. A chiropractor or a highly trained massage therapist can remove multiple foci in one session. Some naturopathic doctors that deal with exercise and sports will be able to help you as well. If the job is done well you should no longer feel tenderness in your muscles and this can translate to less or even no headaches.
Look out for those neck symptoms
You may find this interesting: a list of some additional symptoms that can also originate from muscle foci around the neck and head:
- Stiff neck, neck pain
- Tearing of one eye
- Dizziness or imbalance during certain activities e.g. turning head or head bending
- Nausea or lack of appetite
- Ringing in one ear
- Intolerance of weight or heavy clothing that is supported by shoulders e.g. heavy coat
- Spontaneous episodes of goose bumps on one arm or even thigh
- Upper back pain or burning pain between shoulders
- Chronic toothache for no reason
- Pain while lying on a pillow while on back
- Numbness, tingling or burning pain in the scalp
Pain misery a common result of misdiagnosis
As you can see muscular foci can lead to many problems, often misdiagnosed. We all have them and we have them in different areas causing problems. Many patients suffering from knee and hip pain, headaches, frozen shoulder, and back pain have muscular foci and they can find immediate relief upon removing them, so consider your muscles any time chronic pain shows up.
If you were told that your headache or migraine is “genetic” and you have not been evaluated for muscular foci/tension then somebody has given you a premature and likely a wrong diagnosis. It’s time to treat yourself better.