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Cerivical headaches or tension headaches

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Over the past 4 years I have suffered from periodic episodes of head pressure and headaches in all parts of my head including my face and jaw. I also have some limited side to side movement of my neck. The initial attack was mitigated by neck stretching exercises. 2 years later I found relief at a chiropractor. The chiropractor treatment is no longer helping. During the initial attack I had a brain CT, an ENG for my ears and balance as well as neck x rays. The neck x rays showed I had spondylyosis, which I aslo have together with slipped disk in my lower back. I am not incapacitated, in fact I continue to go the gym and play basketball once a week, but the daily headaches are wearing me down. Except to tell me I am suffering from tension headaches the doctors don't seem to have any answers for me. Any advice would be appreciated.


  • Efraim, I wonder why you seem reluctant to accept the diagnosis of tension headaches.
    This is a perfectly valid medical condition, and can cause the most intense headaches.
    Been there, done that over the last 20 years.
    I was led along the arthritis, DDD path for several years. Have just found that my chronic headaches, neck and shoulder pains are muscular in origin. Remedial massage was the key.
    So before you go any further get yourself a good remedial massage treatment, and have a session weekly for a while.
    You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.
    Found this item:
    What is Remedial massage?
    When muscles and tendons become damaged, knotted and tense, remedial massage provides a healing treatment that can be gentle or strong, deep or shallow. Remedial massage holistically treats the whole body and traces the discomfort as far as possible back to the original cause, healing both the cause as well as the symptoms.

    Remedial massage is applied directly to the skin using usually professional massage oil, which ensures that the muscles associated with the disorder and mobilisation of the joint are deeply penetrated. Passive stretching moves are also used.
  • Peter,
    Thanks a lot. I will try the massage therapy.
  • Efraim, while I was having my desperately needed remedial massage today, I asked her where tension headaches originated.
    She said the first thing to check is blood pressure.
    The tension headache is caused by shoulder muscles, in the same way that my lower skull pain is caused. The tension headache key point is just a little closer to the neck than the one affecting me.
    These shoulder muscles work very hard, with one of the main jobs being to support the head.
    The neck muscles don't do this, but are used to turn the head and keep the spine in place.
    So you need to get remedial massage on this muscle area in your shoulders.
    Hot baths can help, and I suppose you'd need to look at what you are doing that affects these muscles so much.
    But massage first! It MUST be remedial.
  • Peter,
    Thanks for the additional advice. I do have high blood pressure but it is under control with medication. I have had chronic shoulder problems since my teenage days as a high school baseball pitcher. It wouldn't surprise me if that is contributing. Does your lower skull pain feel like someone is grabbing your head? I feel like something is grabbing the back of my head which then creates pressure in the other parts of my head.

  • Well, this might give you a clue.
    I called mine 'the beartrap.' Once it closed, it wouldn't let go.
    Drugs made little difference.
    The only thing was drugs and sleep. I guess the muscles relaxed a bit while asleep. Still woke every 10 mins or so, though.
  • Sorry your suffering.
    I don't know if I can help in anyway. I just went to a new Pain Management Dr last wk. He did a "wow" exam I am calling it as I have never had one like that before even from my orthopedic surgeon.
    He is pretty sure what is causing my headaches is the facet joint at C4 just above my fusion. The facet joint becomes inflammed and likes to cause havic on you.
    Only difference between my pain and yours is it has me bed ridden and house bound as they are constant. To the point I cannot function. I also have alot of dizziness, which I am still unsure of.
    I am scheduled for a facet joint injection on June 26th. I will let you know how that goes..
    I do have alot of pressure.
    The only thing that makes it go away now is excedrine and ice laying in a dark room.
    But of course after awhile it comes back..

    I wish you the best of luck finding out some answers!!!

    Take care
  • Hi Terri,
    Thanks for your reply. I tried Excedrin but felt worse after. Motrim has given me some temporary relief. I haven't tried ice but moist heat has helped. I hope to have my first massage this week. Hopefully, it will provide some relief. Good luck and let me know if the injection helps.

  • Hello Efraim,
    Those headaches are killer,I know.I saw my PM doc for them yesterday.What he told me was that the muscles in my neck,and shoulders tighten up in response to the pain the disks are causing,resulting in a headache.If the muscles remain inflamed (swollen)they press on nerves,then the headache continues. It's a vicious cycle.For me,certain activities bring them on,driving,sitting for long periods,heavy lifting,not even heavy lifting,sometimes hoisting a gallon of milk will do it.I have C5-C6 and C6-C7 already fused and C1-C2 and C2-C3 herniated.I will be getting cervical facet injections(as soon as they schedule me)and my Dr said that will help with the headaches.(because they will take the swelling down).So that's the info I have on those nasty things...I sure hope the remedial massage helps you.I would like to try that.
    Have a good one and let us know if they work for you. Sagehen
  • Hello~
    I suggest reading Paula Kamen's book: "ALL IN MY HEAD An epic quest to cure an unrelenting, totally unreasonable, and only slightly enlightening HEADACHE, a memoir" It might help you be a better consumer of your care. I'm not saying you or anyone here is not being a good consumer of their health--just saying we can all keep improving in this area. There are certainly strengths and weaknesses in our healthcare delivery system and our cultures particular view of those in chronic pain. So we need to be mindful of this backdrop IMHO.

    Be aware that often doctors and even alternative practitioners are biased towards their speciality and particular treatment. They can come across as confident they can fix your problem and not say what they do not know and/or further victimize you when you do not get better in their care.

    Its not uncommon you have a headache condition like migraine and also have say a stenosis, facet joint problem, or so-called sinus condition etc that is blamed. Some people have these pathologies and do not have pain. So you might go for a particular treatment ie surgery that could turn out to make you worse. But we all want to believe there is an easy cure so we can get on with our lives. What if we didn't try it and it might have been the one thing that could have helped! Right?

    About your comment the "chiropractics is no longer working." Probably the same thing will happen w/massage therapy--whatever alternative method you use. At first it works and these practitioners will want you to sign on indefinately. Samething would probably happen w/acupuncture. There is likely a reason for this. Its about the way our brains work--- not necessarily the treatment. Still this can be OK (ie to try massage and get some relief outside drugs) but I believe its good to keep this in mind simply for your wallet and so you do not allow yourself to be blamed for your condition by authoritative types.
  • Hi Peter,
    I have now had a massage on consecutives Sundays and have noted limited if any improvement. Do you think it is too early to have seen an affect?
  • My horrible headaches are caused by Occipital Nerve issues and Facet Joints C2-C5 I believe. Anyway, i was having so much ache and headache and took So much over the counter medication that I'd get nosebleeds quite often. Really, its like the medicine does NOTHING. Only trying to sleep thru it in total darkness would help.
    My PM said that there are very few blood vessels in these facet joints, so no matter how much meds you take, very little will be delivered to the site of pain.
    You might want to look into the Occipital Nerve issue as well. I've had one nerve block, and I think that another will be even more effective. But the headaches from Occipital do shoot into your eyeball, behind the ear, and into the jaw. I've even had knots in my jaw because of it. Its HORRIBLE- like the worst brain freeze shooting from the bottom of the back of your head to the front like its trying to shoot out of your eyes. It really can knock you down. I have to close my right eye because blinking just hurts. It makes your face and even hair hurt.
    My fave OTC med for it so far (not that it even makes it go away...) has been BC Powder Arthritis- not sure why, but better than the excedrin for me. Probably because its in powder form. I lay off when I get a nosebleed though. I also try to get my TENS as far up into my head as possible. This has actually offered some relief on occasion. I'm a TENS fan overall.
    Good Luck.
  • Hi Peter,
    I wanted to thank you for the advice about massage therapy. It has definitely helped me. The frequency of my headaches is dramatically lower.

  • I have had them for the last year. I have had them this week which is the forth week post op for ACDF surgery (two levels, c4c5c5c6). I get a shooting pain from the back of my head to the tip of my skull. Then pain and numbness in my jaw and now my teeth hurt. This is not fun! I do know how you feel.
  • Hi Efraim , sorry I missed this one.
    Are you having remedial or deep tissue massage, or just a generic feel good type?
    If you have a muscle problem in that area, the masseuse should recognise it immediately. If they didn't, either the masseuse is a dud or you are OK.
    I get instant relief from mine, and she finds lots of knots to work on.
    I'm expecting it to take a few months to get better.
  • Hi Efraim, I should have read this post before replying.
    That is so good to hear.
    Isn't it wonderful to get such a benefit so easily, without drugs or surgery.
    I bang on a bit about this but I'm convinced that we all have muscle problems of one sort or another, fact of life, and they can give you intense pain.
    After a massage my pain goes and I'm left with just the arthritis ache; my medication use drops dramatically.
    I have a BIG muscle knot in my left shoulder that is causing me bother, and if all else fails may have to get a trigger point injection.
    With the massage, ask your masseuse for the recommended frequency, but have it more often initially rather than less until some good improvement is made.
    Good on you for following up on it. A lot of people ignore it and keep getting MRIs, looking for more complex problems only.
  • I have had bad headaches or "Head pains" for almost two years now. Along with the neck and shoulder muscular pain.

    If you have disc problems they may well be causing the headaches. I just finished a round in PT and the lady that gives me a massage said the muscle below my left shoulder just would not relax. I have pain on my left side mostly. And that muscle is not helping. She did some did some different deeper techniques and nothing would loosen it.

    When that happens it goes to my neck and if I can't ice it or get it to loosen it will bug the nerves on my head and then I'm in pain for days till it releases those nerves.

    It is such a pain and a hard thing to deal with for sure.
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