This is a very common question from my patients following any type of trauma, but especially with car accident's The whiplash and trauma that happen during a car accident create damage to the neck, and this damage can create what is called "radiating pain". If your neck was damaged following a car accident and it is creating radiating headaches, this is referred to as a "cervicogenic headache". Cervicogenic headaches are headaches where the pain originates in the neck and cervical spine. It is medically defined as pain which is present in the head but originates in cervical spine region. Neck pain and headache often occur together.
There are nearly 20 muscles in the neck which, if hurt, can refer pain to the head. The neck is one of the most vulnerable parts of human body, and if any of these 20 muscles in the neck are strained, the throbbing sensations can reach up to the head causing severe headaches.
Cervicogenic headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, throbbing pain, pain behind the eyes, photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light), phonophobia (sensitivity to sounds) etc. The pain can vary from mild to severe in different people. The headache can get worse by frequent and abrupt neck and head movements.
Treating Cervicogenic Headaches:
Lets talk about a few methods of treating and getting rid of cervicogenic headaches so that the problem no longer bothers us and we can get back to our normal life as quickly as possible.
1. Medication - Seeing your primary care physician can be a good idea no matter what when you are in a car accident, but especially if you are having a cervicogenic headache. Your doc can give you some medications that can dull and even take away the pain for a short time.
2. Massage - Gentle stretching exercises and neck massage can be really helpful in alleviating the pain caused by cervicogenic headaches. The muscles near the base of the skull may be strained and massage can help in soothing these muscles. Massage therapy can provide you the greatest relief in short period of time, allowing you to return to your work quickly.
3. Posture improvement - Maintaining a poor posture for a long period of time can lead to cervical joint stiffness, which in turn can lead to cervicogenic headaches. Whiplash injuries primary area of insult is to the overall structure and alignment of the neck, and this is why chiropractic is so important following these types of injuries as this is what chiropractors treat. It is important to correct your posture.
Apart from the above mentioned treatment methods, you need to take sufficient rest. There are also several exercises to strengthen neck muscles that your chiropractor will give you to create long lasting relief. Doing such exercises regularly can be beneficial in getting rid of cervicogenic headaches as well as preventing them from re-occurring in future.
If you have been in a car accident and are suffering from headaches please consult the advise of your chiropractor as they will be able to help guide you out of pain.
Dr. Michael Weir is the clinic director at Bellevue Whiplash Center at Back in Action Chiropractic. We will also be hosting a variety of relevant guest bloggers to help you understand your injuries better.