Sometimes problems aren’t as straightforward as they seem at first glance. Logic would dictate that a headache is most likely caused by something in the head, right?

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As winter sets in this year, you may have the unfortunate experience of a dead car battery. Often people will replace their battery only to have their new battery go dead weeks later. Some problems are simple, and others have layers of complexity to them; your car’s charging system may no longer be up to snuff, the battery terminals could be corroded, or maybe you left a light on in the car? The same is true of headaches - the cause of the headache itself can be complex, and there can be many potential causes. The neck is not always assessed to the degree necessary to detect when it is contributing to headaches.

The magazine Canadian Family Physician published an article that estimated that greater than 70% of headaches were actually caused by a neck problem. This may seem surprising at first, but if you take a deeper look at the anatomy, you can see why their data led them to this thought.

Irritation to nerves exiting the upper neck can create painful sensations over much of the top and back of the head: the area to which they supply sensation. Besides holding up our head, our neck also acts as a portal to transport many important fluids to and from the head. The vertebra of our neck (also known as the Cervical Spine) carry within them arteries that supply our brain with nutrients and oxygen via blood. Cerebrospinal fluid also flows within the spinal canal which is housed within the vertebrae. This vital fluid cushions our brain from quick movements, and also flushes out the by-products of brain-cell metabolism which can be toxic if built up.

The flow of all these vital fluids can be compromised with a neck injury and can cause the highly sensitive tissues of the head and neck to send a signal that something is not right. After looking at the anatomy, it is clear why neck injuries can be expressed as a headache.

Are you or someone you know having challenges with headaches? It may be helpful to have your neck evaluated by a practitioner who deals exclusively in the area. In addition to suffering from headaches myself, I have watched friends and family suffer from headaches that were related to a neck condition that was not being addressed. This is why I choose to dedicate my practice each day to this one vital area.

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