Tension headaches and migraines are the most common types of head pains, yet the exact source of those conditions has alluded experts — until now.
A research team in Germany studied magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) of 50 patients to analyze connections between headache frequency, neck pain and facial muscle trigger points.
They specifically focused on the trapezius muscles, a pair of large, triangular tissues extending over the back of the neck and shoulders and leading to the head and shoulder blades.
Researchers found that those suffering from both tension-type headaches and migraines showed a higher strain in those neck muscles.
In other words, headaches result from a literal pain in the neck.
MRI scans taken by researchers showed that on the days the participants suffered head and neck pain, they also exhibited greater levels of stress on their necks, which suggested that those muscles were inflamed.
That led the experts to conclude that inflammation in the neck — which could develop for several reasons, including bad posture, lack of sleep, injury and stress — may be linked to tension headaches and migraines.
“Our findings support the role of neck muscles in the pathophysiology of primary headaches,” Dr. Nico Sollmann said in a statement, additionally sharing possible solutions for tackling them.
“Therefore, treatments that target the neck muscles could lead to a simultaneous relief of neck pain, as well as headache.”
Sollmann noted that non-invasive treatment options that directly target the site of pain in the neck muscles — such as massage or acupuncture — could be highly effective and safer than medications.