Headaches Pt. 2: What Causes Them

Note: There’s some technical stuff in this blog. If you just want to see how we treat headaches from a muscular standpoint skip to the video below. Otherwise, read the descriptions and bring us questions!

Why do we get headaches?

First of all, the problems mentioned in this blog don’t encompass all types of headache. The goal of this blog is to give you the information you need to ask the right questions and let a professional help you. So let’s get right into it! Take a look at the diagram to the right. Complicated, right? Definitely complicated. This illustrates one small piece of the headache puzzle. Luckily, it’s an important piece. The muscles in that diagram are part of a group that connect to the base of your skull. They work together to hold your head up all day.

Ever get that base of skull tension after a long day at work? Ever feel like if you could just jam your thumb into the base of your skull that you would feel better? That’s this group of muscles struggling to make it through the day. For most people, instead of feeling muscle soreness like you do in other areas of the body (shoulder, knee, etc.), these muscles give you a headache when they’ve had enough. It is estimated that these muscles are responsible for as many as 80-85% of headaches.

A large piece of our treatment (depending on the exam) centers around correcting these muscles in order to relieve the pressure off of the base of your skull.


Why are these muscles such a problem?

They have the job of holding your head up all day. That job only gets harder when we spend 90% of our day looking down at our phone or at our computer. Have you seen the forward head posture diagram to the left? The farther forward your head goes in front of your shoulders the more these upper neck muscles get overused.

When muscles get overused they start to accumulate microtears and microtrauma. These microtears lead to scar tissue and adhesion formation. Over time, adhesion creates further forward head posture, leading to more weight on the upper neck muscles, leading to more adhesion. This cycle repeats throughout life thanks to poor posture and technology. If you don’t get in there and break the cycle it only continues.

Luckily, the adhesion process is reversible.

We treat adhesion in the upper neck with manual therapy and adjusting. These components are critical for reducing headaches and migraines. Postural exercises can do a good job of slowing the problems down but without hands on treatment it is impossible to reverse damage that has already occurred. Most people come in to the office because they are in pain. If the area already hurts, that usually means the problem has been building for years. In parts 3 and 4 we will get into the actual treatment process and why specific treatment is crucial. We help a lot of people here that didn’t have successful treatment elsewhere because of the methods we use.




Bonus Picture!

See that bone spur on the back of the skull? That’s how arthritis appears on the base of the skull.

This can happen when you combine the pressure of scar tissue with years of experiencing the problem. The pressure these small muscles can create on the base of your skull is no joke.




Check back in for parts 3 and 4!

If you know anyone with headaches, please get them help. Without proper diagnosis and treatment their issue can go unsolved for years.

Disclaimer: None of this constitutes advice. Without a proper neurological and physical exam, there is no guarantee that any of the issues mentioned apply to you as an individual. Patients who are examined in the office are given specific treatment and therapy in accordance with their dysfunction. The only way to get proper treatment is to have a complete and accurate diagnosis.

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