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The Connection Between Neck Misalignment and Headaches

Updated: Feb 7

The Connection Between Neck Misalignment and Headaches

Are you experiencing headaches in the front or back part of your head? If so, you may be surprised to find that there is a connection between neck misalignment and headaches. Meaning, that the pain you’re feeling could be a symptom of an upper cervical misalignment.

Neck misalignments are extremely common and can occur not only from illness or injury but from poor posture, basic daily habits, and even stress. And, because the atlas is the most vulnerable bone in your body, even the most minor misalignments can cause pain, illness, chronic diseases, or a variety of other disorders.


What is Neck Misalignment and How Can it Cause Headaches?

Neck misalignment also known as a subluxation is caused when the top two bones in your neck, the atlas (c1) and the axis (c2) are out of place. When these bones misalign they can irritate your brain stem which comes through a hole in your skull and connects to your spinal cord right where your atlas sits.

When those bones misalign, they can interfere with the spinal nerves that come out in between your vertebrae and travel up the back side of your skull. A subluxation in this area can put pressure on the spinal nerves that run from the top of your neck, around the back of your head, and to the forehead, which can cause headaches. Another way that we can get headaches in the forehead and eye region is from sensory neurons that come to the side of the face and wrap around and down to the brainstem.

Another cause of headaches could come from the occiput, the bone at the base of your skull that acts as a passage for the brain stem and spinal cord. Headaches stemming from the occiput tend to start from the back of the head and are often referred to as occipital neuralgia.

The lower cervical spine, or bottom portion of your neck, can lead to what is known as cervicogenic headaches. Although the nerves from this portion of the neck don’t run up to the head, the muscles of your shoulders do run to the base of your skull. When these muscles become tight due to misalignment, they can pull on the base of the skull and lead to headaches.

What Can Cause Neck Misalignment?

As we said before, neck misalignments are common. Possibly even more common than you think. And they can be caused by the simplest of things.

  • Car accidents and/or whiplash A collision at speeds as low as five mph can cause injury if your head is often thrown forward and backward or hyperextended from side to side.

  • Poor posture Remember that your head weighs anywhere from 10 to 12 pounds. Leaning your neck forward all day long at a desk or frequently using a mobile device can cause tremendous strain on your vertebrae and poor posture can take your spine out of its natural position leading to vertebral misalignments.

  • Sports-related injuries Contact sports frequently result in concussions and lead to a high probability of taking the upper cervical spine out of alignment. Besides football, soccer, and hockey, other sports, such as horseback riding, skiing, and board sports, can also result in neck misalignments.

  • Stress and toxins That’s right, even stress and toxins within the body can cause your neck muscles to tighten and result in discomfort. If the muscles maintain a constant position of stress, it can cause the neck bones to shift in an attempt to compensate.

  • Slips and Falls Even the slightest slip or fall can cause misalignments in the neck. Anytime, too much pressure or stress is placed on the neck it can cause misalignment of vertebrae or even spinal discs.

  • Bad sleep habits Even the position that you sleep in, can cause misalignments, particularly if you tend to sleep on your stomach. This is because when you lay on your stomach, your neck stays on one side for long periods, which can be stressful for the neck.

As common as it is for neck misalignments to occur, it should come as no surprise that misalignments often go undiagnosed until they begin to cause symptoms. Worse yet, people often fail to realize that a symptom such as a headache is being caused by the neck.

Can You Ease the Pain of Neck Misalignment Headaches?

Although realigning your neck will help significantly reduce the pain and frequency of headaches, there are a few ways to ease the pain while you receive treatment and your body goes through the process of learning to hold alignment.

If you are experiencing a headache, start by applying an ice pack or cold compress to the affected area. If your muscles are tight, apply heat to the neck and shoulder area to relax the muscles. Lie down to rest in a quiet space and use a small towel or pillow to support your neck without pushing your head forward. And, if at all possible, reduce or avoid bright lights and noise.

How Can Upper Cervical Chiropractic Help?

Upper Cervical Chiropractic focuses on the two upper bones in the spine, the Atlas and Axis, and works to restore the brain-body connection by repairing misalignment in the upper cervical region. Once a natural state is restored, blood flow to the brain normalizes, brain-body communication becomes optimal, and many patients will see a reduction in both pain and frequency of headaches.

If you suspect you have a neck misalignment that is leading to headaches, Drs Tim and Danielle can restore the alignment in your neck with gentle, drug-free, noninvasive treatments designed specifically for your body. Contact us today by dropping by our office at 1800 E 3rd Ave #108, in Durango, giving us a call at 970 – 259 – 6803, or clicking the link below to schedule a free consultation.


Notice of Disclaimer:

We are doctors of upper cervical chiropractic, but we are NOT necessarily YOUR doctors. All content and information on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, do not constitute medical advice, and reading or interacting with this site does not establish any form of the patient-doctor relationship. Although we strive to provide accurate information, the information presented here is not intended as a substitute for any kind of professional advice and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in your particular area of need before making medical decisions.


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