Headaches from Neck Strain

Posted On: October 24, 2020

You have been working from home for months. At first you thought it would be ideal. You can sleep a little later. You can wear your pajamas. The refrigerator is stocked with leftovers. It’s a dream come true.

Then reality hits. You find it hard to balance your time. You are pulled in multiple directions. Your kids need help with their online classes. The dog needs to be walked. Your mother- in-law needs groceries brought to her house. Getting your work done at home is a logistical nightmare.

A couple months into your gig at home you find that your neck is bothering you. You try readjusting how you sit and where you sit, but none of it helps. You have been doing your work from a laptop and it isn’t the same as the desktop screen and keyboard set-up you have at work.

Your neck pain worsens and then one evening the pain at the base of your skull develops into an aching that wraps over your skull and settles in behind your eye. You reach for the Advil. The Advil helps some, but you don’t like taking it.

The next day you get the same headache, except now it is earlier in the afternoon. This cycle continues for a week until your spouse suggests you see your doctor. You reluctantly e-mail your primary care physician. She gets back to you and tells you that you are taking too much Advil and, with your stomach problems, it isn’t a good idea. “What should I do?” you ask.  She says, “Try a chiropractor or a physical therapist.” What a novel idea; your dad has been swearing by his chiropractor for years.

You go online and find a chiropractor with good reviews. You make an appointment. When you go in you are surprised at how thorough the doctor of chiropractic is with his questions and exam. He asks about your work station and how much time you are on your phone. When he examines you he seems to know right where to touch your spine and find the tender spots.

After the exam, he sits you down and explains that your neck pain is related to your posture and your headaches are coming from your neck. He even has a term for your type of headache, which he calls a “cervicogenic headache.” He explains that therapy and adjustments should get things working again, but to manage the problem you will have to rearrange your work station.

He suggests using a regular computer rather than a laptop or that you get a separate keyboard and use your laptop as a screen. He also suggests using ear-buds for your phone calls. He explains that you can do some of your texting from the computer. He gives you a handout on the ergonomic design of your work station.

You set up a schedule of treatments, coming twice per week for six weeks. You go home and rearrange your den so that you have a proper work space. Attending therapy becomes part of your routine. You find the sessions to be challenging when you work on the postural exercise required to help the problem. You find it restful when one of the therapists does the massage portion, and you find it relieving when the chiropractor adjusts you.

About half way through the six weeks you find that your headaches have decreased in frequency and intensity. Your neck feels no where near as tight, and if it tightens up you have strategies to loosen it up. At the end of the program you are pain free and you put away your Advil.

This case scenario or iterations of it have played out for many of our patients over the years at North Shore Spinal and Sports Rehabilitation. I hope you found my blog to be both engaging and informative. If you have–or think you may have–a persistent headache stemming from your neck, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  We are here to help.

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