Headaches and Neck Pain

Signs and Symptoms

Pain of any type that occurs in any part of the head is called a headache. There are many different types of headaches, with just as many causes. The International Headache Society describes several different categories of headache:

  • Tension-type (also called muscle-spasm headaches) are the most common types of headaches in adults. They may be the result of a neck or jaw problem, poor posture, fatigue, or stress. 
  • Migraine and cluster
  • Secondary headaches from an underlying condition, such as fever, infectlolls disease, sinus disorder, or in rare cases, a tumor or more serious illness
  • Cranial neuralgia, facial pain, and other headaches 

Most headaches are harmless and resolve on their own, although severe headaches that recur frequently can affect your ability to do your daily activities and can reduce your quality of life,
There is effective treatment for almost every type of headache. The challenge lies in determining the type of headache, its cause, and in developing an appropriate treatment plan that will reduce both its frequency and intensity.


How We Evaluate

At Advance Physical Therapy, we can help determine the type of headache you have and manage pain from tension-type headaches. A tension-type headache typically begins at the back of the head and spreads to the top of the head and the eyes. You might feel an increase in facial pain along the cheeks near the jaw bone. People often describe a tightness, a sensation of someone tugging on their hair, or a feeling of wearing a tight cap. These headaches can worsen with specific positions--such as sitting at a desk--and may ease with rest. We we will perform a thorough evaluation that includes:

  • Recalling any previous injuries to your neck, head, or jaw 
  • Locating the area, nature, and behavior of your pain and other symptoms
  • Drawing your areas of pain on a body diagram
  • Performing tests of muscle strength and sensation
  • Examining your posture when sitting, standing. and performing various activities 
  • Measuring the range or motion of your neck, shoulders, and other relevant parts of your body
  • Using manual therapy to evaluate the mobility of the joints and muscles in your neck 


How We Can Help With Headaches and Neck Pain

If it appears that you do have tension-type headaches, we will work with you to design a plan of care to meet your goals. If the evaluation indicates that you may have a different type of headache--such as sinus, migraine, or cluster headache--your physical therapist likely will refer you to another health care professional for additional diagnostic tests and treatment. We will work with you to correct the problems that are causing your pain and will help you learn to prevent headaches through simple changes in your posture and lifestyle.

  • Improve neck mobility - In our clinic, we use a specialized technique called manual therapy to increase movement and relieve pain and to stretch the muscles of the back of the neck.
  • Improve your strength - We will teach you exercises to increase the strength of the muscles that help stabilize your upper back and neck to improve your posture, endurance, and make it easier for you to sit or stand for longer periods of time without discomfort.
  • Improve your posture. We will teach you to ways to improve your posture. Whether it requires a simple push of your chest out, or a pull of your shoulder blades backward and together, slight modifications to everyday living can make a vast improvement in posture.


Information provided by the American Physical Therapy Association.