Neck pain coupled with a headache can be debilitating. It interferes with sleep leaving you exhausted all the time. For some, this type of neck pain causes ache to radiate up the temple or forehead. Grinding, popping or clicking upon movement is felt as well. Range of motion (ROM) is limited and painful. Pain is worse upon initial movement after a period of immobility such as after sleeping or prolonged reading in one position. If you have all these symptoms, you may have arthritis in the atlanto-axial and atlanto-occipital joints.
The atlanto-axial joint (C1-C2) is mostly responsible for turning your head side to side. The atlanto-occipital joint is responsible for nodding or looking up or down. With normal wear and tear or prior injury, the cartilage that lines the surface of these joints becomes worn out. This is what doctors call “bone on bone”. These joints are close to your ear so you can actually hear the popping, clicking or grinding. Arthritis in these joints can cause pain in the neck, headache and/or pain up the temple, forehead, or top of the head.
This condition can be managed with Physical Therapy. ROM exercises should take care of this problem. However, by the time we see our patients in our office, their joints are stiff that usual ROM exercises are not enough. They do benefit from careful, and specific spinal joint mobilization. This is not the typical “cracking” of the neck you hear chiropractors do. Mobilization is done one segment at a time. The result is quite dramatic. Symptoms of headache and pain radiating up the head are decreased in one or two visits. Patients are taught the correct ROM exercises to maintain this increased flexibility. Pain from inflammation are addressed as well. There are modalities just for this problem.
Call us if you have this condition. We can help.
Dino Lontoc, PT