Neck Pain and Migraine

Neck Pain and Migraine

Neck Pain

Most people will suffer from neck pain and tension at some time in their lives. Some experience it as an acute painful episode of severe restriction in neck movement, others as a constant low-grade tension in the neck and shoulders. This may also be accompanied by a tension headache generally felt in the back or front of the head.

Neck pain is usually generated by increased tension in the ligaments of the spine. Ligaments hold the bones of the body together and allow limited movement of the bones relative to each other. It is the muscles that contract to create the movement. When ligaments are strained they can react by increasing their tension to an abnormal level, restricting the natural movement of the bones. Ligaments are pain sensitive and can generate the pain that you experience. Muscles in the area of ligament strain will tighten to protect the ligament from further strain, resulting in tension.

The tension headache that accompanies neck pain is generally a result of increased tension in the muscles in the upper neck that connect to the back of the head or the muscles covering the scalp.


Migraines are extremely painful, recurring headaches that are sometimes accompanied by other symptoms such as visual disturbances (seeing an aura) or nausea. If you have a migraine with aura, you may see things such as stars or zigzag lines or have a temporary blind spot before the headache starts. Even if you don't experience an aura, you may have other warning signs in the period before the headaches starts, such as sleepiness, or depression.

Signs and Symptoms:

The headache from a migraine, with or without aura, has the following characteristics:

  • Throbbing, pounding, or pulsating pain
  • Often begins on one side of your head and may spread to both or stay on one side
  • Most intense pain is often concentrated around the sides of the forehead
  • Can last from 4 - 72 hours

These symptoms may happen at the same time or before the headache:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or even vertigo (feeling like the room is spinning)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Visual disturbances, like seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines, temporary blind spots, or blurred vision
  • Parts of your body may feel numb, weak, or tingly
  • Light, noise, and movement, especially bending over, make your head hurt worse; you want to lie down in a dark, quiet room
  • Irritability

Symptoms that may linger even after the headache is gone:

  • Feeling mentally dull, like your thinking is not clear or sharp
  • Sleepiness
  • Neck pain


Researchers aren't sure what causes a migraine, although they know it involves changes in the blood flow in the brain. At first, blood vessels narrow or constrict, reducing blood flow and leading to visual disturbances, difficulty speaking, weakness, numbness, or tingling sensation in one area of the body, or other similar symptoms. Later, the blood vessels dilate or enlarge, leading to increased blood flow and a severe headache.

There also seems to be a genetic link to migraine headaches. More than half of migraine patients have an affected family member. Migraine triggers can include the following:

  • Alcohol, especially beer and red wine
  • Certain foods, such as aged cheeses, chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, some fruits (like avocado, banana, and citrus), foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG), onions, dairy products, meats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats) fermented or pickled foods
  • Skipping meals
  • Fluctuations in hormones -- for example, during pregnancy, before and during your period, and menopause
  • Certain odors, such as perfume or smoke
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Stress, physical or emotional -- often, the headache happens when a person is relaxing after a particularly stressful time
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Some medications
  • Heat, high humidity, and high altitude

Chiropractors believe that some migraines originate in the spine. Often a misalignment of the vertebrae in the neck can irritate the nerves or blood vessels that supply parts of the brain, resulting in the changes in blood flow to the brain that causes a migraine.


Chiropractic adjustments reset the tension in the ligaments to normal levels, restoring the natural movement of the bones and releasing the surrounding muscle tension. This reduces the local inflammation and pain and restores the normal blood flow to the brain.

Freedom Chiropractic has a unique approach that recognises that we are a vertical structure living in a world of gravity. The hips and pelvis provide a level platform for the rest of the vertical spine and the structures that are connected (ribcage, shoulder blades, arms and neck). When the pelvis is unlevelled, it causes a distortion in the vertical spine. This puts strain on certain ligaments causing pain and inflammation.

Our approach is to firstly balance the hips and pelvis, restoring the level platform. The rest of the spine and other structures naturally respond by wanting to self-correct and we support this process. So, even in cases of neck pain and headache, we will restore the pelvic balance first, before treating the upper back and neck. We have found this to be the most effective, safest and natural approach and produces outstanding results with minimum intervention.

In my experience, most neck problems have slowly built up over time, in response to a distortion pattern in the hips and pelvis. Following Newton’s ‘action-reaction’ law, when the hips and pelvis skew in one direction, the shoulder plane skews in the opposite direction, upsetting the mechanical alignment of the cervical spine, straining ligaments, tendons and muscles in the area. Neck pain and migraines are most effectively treated by firstly balancing the hips and pelvis, then the shoulders and neck will align easily and the pressure is taken off the neck so the tissues are able to heal completely. This also ensures that the neck and migraine problem will not re-occur.

Case Study

Tina was a 38 year old woman who presented with a chronic history of headache at the back and front of her head and tingling in both hands since she was 15 years old. She had a fall from a horse when 12 years old and a motor vehicle accident at 20 years old. The initial treatment balanced her hip angles, released her thoracic spine and also her right jaw and upper neck, and she was given the nightly strapping exercise. A week later she returned to report no headache or tingling and feeling much better. She subsequently received 5 weekly treatments to continue to balance and correct her spinal structure and continued to do the nightly strapping exercise. She has had no further problems.

Posted: Thursday 13 September 2018