Of course, you can have headaches for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes you have a busy week, and often there’s no real explanation. Maybe scientists have found them now. They discovered that neck muscles may have something to do with it.
From migraines to tension headaches, it is known what happens in the body, but not why it happens. It is only assumed that both types of headaches involve excessive stimulation of the nervous system.
But scientists now have a clearer explanation. “The scanning method in our study provided the first objective evidence that neck muscles are often involved in primary headache complaints, such as neck pain that occurs with migraines or tension headaches. “We succeeded in showing subtle inflammatory reactions within the muscles,” explains the researcher. Main German Nico Solmann from the centre Ulm University Hospital Outside.
Numbers about headaches
Most people suffer from tension headaches from time to time. They often feel cramping and mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head. These types of headache complaints are often associated with fatigue and muscle tension, but the exact cause is not clear. Migraines cause more severe throbbing pain. Victims often feel pain on one side of the head or the pain is much worse on one side. Migraines can also cause nausea, sensitivity to light, and general weakness. It is estimated that about 30,000 men and 123,000 women in the Netherlands suffer from this chronic disease to the point that they go to the doctor to complain. An estimated 148 million people worldwide suffer from chronic migraines.
Neck pain often co-occurs with headaches, but there is no objective biomarker for the association. Neck pain involves irritation or inflammation of the muscle tissue or tissue surrounding the muscle. So Sollman and his colleagues investigated the role of the monk’s hood muscle. This is a large superficial muscle at the neck level. It is triangular and reminiscent of the straight covering of a monk’s habit. We have the monk hat muscle on both sides of the neck. By performing special MRI scans of the monk’s hood muscle on fifty people tested – mostly women between the ages of 20 and 31 – researchers found for the first time a link between the physical condition of this neck muscle and primary headache complaints. Sixteen participants suffered from tension headaches, twelve suffered from tension headaches in addition to migraines, and 22 were healthy and belonged to the control group.
Objective vital signs
The higher the inflammation values in the scans, the more severe and frequent the neck pain, the number of headache days and the number of pain points in the monk’s hood muscle in the test subjects. The group of participants who suffered from tension headaches and migraines showed the highest muscle values in the tests. “Changes in levels of neck muscle inflammation are clearly associated with the length of headache symptoms and the presence of neck pain,” Sollman says. “These differences ensure that we can distinguish between healthy people and headache patients based on scans.”
Treating neck pain
The new scanning method could be used to divide headache patients into groups and monitor potential effects of treatment. “We can now say with certainty that the neck muscles play a major role in the clinical picture of primary headache,” Sollman says. “If we find a treatment to solve neck pain, it could also be a good way to treat headache complaints.” The German scientist explains that treatment methods that directly target areas of pain in the neck muscles can be very effective and safer than medications. “With the help of our new scanning method and the discovery of an objective biomarker of primary headache, we will be able to select patients in the near future, choose effective treatments for them and closely monitor this whole process.”
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