Headaches and head pain often come as part of neck and shoulder pain, especially when those pains are associated with stress. One of the simplest reasons for this is that many of the muscles of the neck are shared with the shoulder, so what's tight in the shoulder can pull on the neck and head causing tension headaches or head pain.
Poor posture at the work desk, with neck craning forwards towards the screen and rounded shoulders - or shoulders held unnecessarily high - also changes the angle of the pull of these muscles on the neck and head - not good!
These causes account for the majority of the cases we see, which is good news as they may respond well to a mixture of soft tissue work and mobilisation.
Whiplash can cause spasm and unusual tightness of the sub-occipital muscles between the top two vertebrae of your neck and the skull, thus irritating the greater occipital nerve that goes up the back of the head and creating a headache or head pain. Concussion can do the same, but it can also result in the brain tissue being slammed against the inside of the skull and effectively bruising the brain tissue and giving a headache and symptoms of concussion.
Headaches are often classified as either tension headaches or migraines but recently it has been recognized that these are on a continuum with migraines at the extreme end of the pain scale.
We may not be able to totally get rid of these if you've been having them for many years or if they're familial, but a lot of patients report decreased intensity and/or reduced frequency of their migraines with osteopathy. They may turn into tension headaches which are more manageable than migraines.
Hormonal, dietary, familial and sinus related, to mention just a few. And in some cases there may be more than one cause contributing to the problem. Interestingly, the now dated advice to drink large quantities of water can also result in headaches, as can certain medications.
In older patients, wear and tear in the neck can also be to blame, but this doesn't mean the headache is unavoidable because the effects of the arthritis can be reduced to the point that the headaches disappear. The sub occipital muscles (mentioned earlier) can tighten in older people using bi-focal glasses because the user tilts the head back to read. But as with any symptom, other possible explanations also need considering, such as hypertension.