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Chiropractic Research Review

Musculoskeletal Link to Headaches Revealed

Although it is well-accepted that cervical structures affected by disease or degeneration can cause headaches, less is known about what causes headaches occurring in the absence of disease or trauma.

Two Australian municipalities served as the study setting for this investigation of headache associated with the cervical spine. Four hundred and twenty-seven subjects who reported no prior injuries were categorized based on the presence and frequency of a particular type of headache with the following characteristics:

* occipital or neck pain accompanying headache;
* frequent headache upon waking; and
* headache associated with sustained neck postures, tension, or neck pain and movement.

Subjects were divided into three groups for analysis: those with two or more headaches of this type in the previous month (frequent headaches); those with fewer than two headaches for the month (occasional headache); and those without this type of headache. Information was gathered on anthropometric variables, including neck circumference; neck column length; cervical muscle performance; range of motion; other variables such as occupation (interpreted as biomechanical stress on the spine); recreational and physical activity; and the use of glasses or dentures.

The authors summarize their findings by stating: "Headaches of this type were more frequent in subjects with a long anterior neck length relative to their posterior neck length, particularly if they occasionally participated in recreational sports (men) or wore glasses (women)." They suggest that some individuals may be susceptible to cervical headache based on their physical attributes alone, emphasizing the potential value of a biomechanical approach to improve cervical function and reduce headache frequency.

Grimmer K, Blizzard L, Dwyer T. Frequency of headaches associated with the cervical spine and relationships with anthropometric, muscle performance and recreational factors. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, May 1999:80, pp512-21.

Chiropractic Research Review

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