Do you often have a headache after sitting for long hours at the computer or reading? If yes, then you need to be a it concerned. These ‘headaches’ have a cervical origin, this means that the pain actually originates from the neck. Such headaches are referred to as ‘cervicogenic’ headache. This happens to be one of the most common causes of headaches, and is also an alarm sign from your body warn you about the forthcoming degeneration of the cervical spine.
Let us understand how this headache is related to the neck, how can we get rid of it and protect the cervical spine.
First, the cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae that are placed one over the other (Also read: Suffering from back pain? Here’s why you need to take care of your spine). The placement is such that allows you maximum mobility so that you can look up, down, turn around and also rotate your neck. When one does all these movements, the intervertibral disc that is present between the two vertebrae takes all the load and pressure of your body, preventing bone-to-bone friction.
These intervertebral discs swell up when there is excess load on the cervical spine. This swelling eventually compresses the blood vessles and nerve roots that originate from the spinal cord, putting severe pressure on them. But the damage does not stop here, it further creates numbness or tingling-like sensations in the arm/fingers, shoulder and also causes headache.
If we ignore these symptoms and continue to work, the body compensates by using different group of muscles and gets into altered postures or positions in order to avoid pain. But these altered positions are not good for the spine since these postures are not natural to our body movement. When we continue to work in these ‘antalgic’/altered postures, the muscles end up in a spasm. (Also read: Posture Perfect — Are you standing the right way?)
Another common reason for the neck spasm is called as the ‘trapezitits’. Here, the trapezius muscle of your dominant side goes on to spasm and becomes very tender to touch. This is commonly seen in increased stress levels or with people working under immense pressure.
The best way to deal with a neck spasm is to minimise your neck mobility, apply ice around the trapzius muscle for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times in the initial 48 hours of the spasm, and then later move to hot-water fermentation again for 20 minutes. At such times, you should sleep on your back and keep a towel rolled under your neck. This will support the neck and help the spasm in the muscle to settle down as the ice will control and subside the inflammation, and the hot water will enhance blood circulation.
Once you get relief from the pain, you can begin with a few mobility and stretching exercises described below. After a week of stretching and mobility exercises, begin exercises that strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles.
1. Do these exercises when the pain is acute
2. Once the pain has subsided, say after two weeks, do these exercises that will strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles