Everyone has experienced a headache or neck ache at some point in their life. The pain can be overwhelming and render you temporarily helpless.
While some causes of head and neck aches are well known, such as caffeine withdrawal, colds, sinus infections, and cases of flu – Over decades of clinical observations, I’ve noticed five major causes of headaches and neck aches that are not well known by most people.
Before we dive into these little-known causes of headaches, it’s important that we differentiate between the major types of headaches. Depending on how these are categorized there between 3 and 10 types of headaches. The three I want to be sure to differentiate include:
- Tension headaches – Tension headaches make up about 90 percent of all headaches. They can cause mild, moderate or severe pain in your head and neck. For many, certain stressors such as food, activities or stress itself can trigger tension headaches. Tension headaches can occur sporadically or chronically – impacting a person for more than 15 days per month.
- Migraine headaches – Perhaps the most dreaded of all the headaches, migraines include throbbing pain and are accompanied by nausea, light, and audio sensitivity. Migraines are debilitating and typically recurring. Low magnesium, some migraine medications, and avoiding triggers can help some patients but others will need additional treatments such as Botox or reducing input into their trigeminal system.
- Neck pain based headaches – Sometimes patients with neck pain based headaches are unaware their problem is originating below their temples. Neck pain is a telling symptom of headaches and often guides treatment in the direction of addressing jaw instability or reducing trigeminal input.
5 unexpected causes of your headaches and neck aches
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) – TMJ impacts tens of millions of men and women and is a common cause of headaches. About 80 percent of patients with TMJ disorder experience debilitating headaches. If you don’t see a doctor specializing in TMJ, or your dentist, your TMJ condition will only worsen over time.
- Poor quality sleep – Poor sleep quality is an epidemic in America, with most people completely unaware how prevalent this issue is. I’m not talking about laying down for seven to eight hours each night and thinking you got enough sleep – I’m talking about the millions of people who have sleep-disordered breathing. Typically caused by airway issues, sleep-disordered breathing prevents individuals from getting into the healing stage three of sleep. Without deep, complete sleep you can wake up feeling exhausted. The resulting fatigue is a well-known trigger for headaches.
- Jaw instability – Jaw instability can contribute to TMJ, teeth grinding, clenching, and harmful trigeminal input. This jaw activity can cause headaches, neck pain or both. Your dentist can examine your jaw and identify if it’s contributing to your chronic headaches and neck aches.
- Trigeminal input – Your trigeminal system includes a nerve that’s responsible for sensation in the face, along with important functions such as chewing. Some patients have what’s called trigeminal convergence, which can cause chronic headaches. Trigeminal convergence can come from jaw muscles, teeth, gums or the temporomandibular joint.
- Inflammation – TMJ also contributes to inflammation and vice versa in a vicious cycle. Poor quality sleep and inflammation also interact in a similar downward spiral. By improving your quality of sleep, treating TMJ, and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet you could significantly reduce your headaches and neck aches.
Common triggers of headaches and neck aches
If you are prone to headaches and neck aches, avoid common triggers of headaches and neck aches, which include:
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Stress – emotional and physical
- Caffeine – over consumption or withdrawal
- Smoking cigarettes
- Eye strain
Regular headaches are not normal and it’s my recommendation that you make an appointment with a dentist specializing in headaches, TMJ, and airway disorders – because these are common causes of headaches and neck aches that are often overlooked.
7 Surprising solutions to your chronic headaches and neck aches
Unfortunately, most people with chronic headaches and neck aches believe there’s no treatment available and they are doomed to be subjected to these painful experiences for the rest of their lives.
This is simply not the case!
While headache treatments differ from person to person, there are several options, including:
Therapeutic Botox – Therapeutic Botox is great for treating some headaches. The Botox can be injected into the masseter and temporalis muscles relieving tension and myofascial pain.
Diagnostic blocks – Diagnostic lidocaine blocks can be used to identify the sources of headaches. Once the source of a headache or neck ache is identified, it can usually be alleviated.
Trigger point therapy – Through injecting saline and procaine into problem points, it’s possible to re-educate the muscles into pain-free habits. This treatment plan requires a few sessions but patients often find their neck pain is reduced and they have fewer headaches.
Physical therapy – Manual therapy can help with myofascial release and mobilization of the associated muscles to reduce headaches.
Topical compounded therapy – Our partnerships with compounded pharmacies have allowed us to create topical solutions that alleviate myofascial pain and tension.
Oral appliances – Oral appliances are great for moving the position of the tongue, soft palate, and widening the pharyngeal walls. These processes improve airway function, sleep quality, reduce inflammation, and may reduce headaches.
Prosthodontics for sleep-disordered breathing – There are a variety of prosthodontic services that may be appropriate for your headache or neck ache condition. By applying the appropriate prosthodontics needed, your dentist can place your jaw, head, and neck muscles in an ideal position so they can work together in harmony.
All seven of these treatments have two important factors in common – they are long-lasting and non-prescription solutions. Only when you address the root cause of a condition can you find lasting pain relief.
Because pharmaceuticals aren’t really addressing your pain problems, our motto is and continues to be:
Killing Pain without Prescription
Share this article with a friend who struggles with chronic headaches – you might save them from a world of pain!
If you’re suffering from chronic headaches and neck aches, make an appointment with us today by calling – 212-752-1662. It’s our goal to find patients permanent pain relief that allows them to live their healthiest lives!