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Roaring Fork ValleyGlenwood Springs | Chiropractor

Headaches & Neck Pain


Common Causes Of Neck Pain & Headaches

Disc Injury:
Between each neck bone (vertebra) is a disc which acts as a shock absorber for the spine.  Discs have fluid in the center which is contained by rings of ligaments, like the inside of a tree.  When these ligaments tear, it causes short-term sharp pain and limited motion.  Many people report “sleeping wrong” and waking up in pain.  If enough rings tear, this fluid can leak out causing a bulged or herniated disc. 

Muscle Spasms:
Tight and tender muscles in the neck which significantly limit mobility. Muscle spasms are essential because they are your body’s way of unloading (taking pressure off) a damaged disc. Directly treating spasms is dangerous because they are protective. Spasms usually go away on their own within 1-2 weeks, as the injured disc recovers. If you experience muscle spasms or 'sleep wrong' often, the muscles aren't the problem.

Many headache patients report tension in their neck, referring to tight muscles and stiffness.  These tight muscles put pressure on the blood and oxygen supply to the brain, causing headaches.  Most commonly noted at the base of the skull, behind the head.  The muscles can be painful, tender, or inflamed.  Poor posture (looking down at your phone) is a standard way to develop adhesion and tight muscles.

The most common form of arthritis which affects the neck is osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition where smooth cartilage between neck bones is gradually worn down; making it known as 'wear and tear' arthritis.  Bone then grows to try to support and stabilize the joint.  As the condition worsens, pain is more frequent with tenderness, stiffness, and a grating sensation from bone spurs (growth).  Restoring mobility reduces pressure between these articular surfaces.

Adhesion, Mobility, & Neck Pain/Headaches

A neck that can easily flex and turn pain-free with full mobility is healthy.  Limited neck mobility increases the load on joints, altering proper mechanics.  Altered mechanics and undue stress increase the risk of pain, disc damage, and degeneration.  Poor posture (sustained contraction) reduces oxygen supply to muscles resulting in adhesion development.  Adhesion is connective tissue that acts like glue in the body limiting flexibility and strength.

Adhesion is the most common cause of limited neck mobility.  
Fixing adhesion restores healthy movement and mechanics.  Sound neck mechanics reduce the risk of pain, disc damage, and degeneration.  If you have neck pain or headaches, make sure your neck can fully flex and turn.

Below are two videos demonstrating how to test yourself for limited neck flexion and rotation.  
If these tests are limited, difficult, or painful, we can help

Is limited mobility causing your neck pain or headaches?
Test Yourself

Neck Flexion

Neck Rotation

  • Stand against a wall 
  • Tuck your chin, driving head up the wall
  • Keep head in contact with wall 

  • Keep chin tucked, take head off wall
  • Drop chin down to chest
  • Full mobility: chin to chest

  • Use a mirror to measure
  • Stand sideways/perpendicular to mirror
  • Turn head towards mirror (don't turn shoulders)
  • Keep head upright, turn as far as possible
  • Full Mobility: see both ears (90º)

These are only basic mobility tests of the cervical spine.  They do not establish a diagnosis.

Patient Testimonial

Dr. Holen is the real deal. His dedication to training and expertise is unparalleled. He has the skills and discipline to solve your painful problems and manage any condition. He is humble and knows his limitations. If he can't fix you (highly unlikely!), he will definitely help you find out what can help the most.

Brandon C.

Headache & Neck Pain Relief