The most common primary headaches are tension headaches and migraines. A tension headache can be recognized by a feeling of tightness in the head and mild to moderate pain in both sides, and is usually associated with stress and muscle tension. Migraines are accompanied by severe throbbing pain, usually worse on one side of the head, and often cause nausea, weakness, and sensitivity to light.
The exact causes of primary headaches are still not fully understood. Although neck pain is often associated with tension headaches and migraines, there are no objective biomarkers that indicate inflammation or irritation in the neck muscles or surrounding connective tissue.
German researchers led by radiologist Nico Solmann from the University Hospital in Ulm wanted to investigate the involvement of the monk's hood muscle – the diamond-shaped muscle found in the upper back and neck – in primary headache disorders. They chose fifty subjects for the test. Sixteen had tension-type headaches, twelve had both tension-type headaches and migraines, and the remaining twenty-two were healthy subjects.
Using MRI images, they tried to detect the subtle inflammation in Aconite's muscles to find correlations between levels of muscle inflammation and the frequency of head and neck pain. The results showed that the neck muscles showed the highest levels of inflammation in the group with both tension headaches and migraines. These inflammation values were significantly associated with the number of headache days and the presence of neck pain.
According to the researchers, this is the first objective evidence of the highly frequent involvement of neck muscles in primary headaches. They believe that treatments targeting the neck muscles can result in simultaneous relief from neck pain and headaches. Non-surgical treatment options that directly target the site of pain in the neck muscles can be highly effective and safer than systemic medications.
Solman is also convinced that levels of inflammation in the neck muscles allow them to differentiate between healthy individuals and patients with primary headaches. The imaging approach can facilitate patient selection of certain treatments.
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