Headaches & Neck Pain Relief Happy Valley & Sandy, OR

Headaches & Neck Pain Relief Happy Valley & Sandy, OR

Picture17 150x150 Headaches & Neck Pain Relief Happy Valley & Sandy, OR

Thanks to Ascent, I am back and running!

I was in a car accident several months ago. After the accident, I was unable to turn my neck or head without pain. After therapy and coaching from the staff, I am able to return to my regular activities. I have always been very active and I was worried that I would be limited for a long time. Thanks to Ascent, I am back and running. Snowboarding season is here and I can now enjoy myself.

Mike H.


Like most areas of our body, injuries and symptoms can be caused by a plethora of underlying mechanisms. Neck pain could be influenced any of the following:

  • Posture
  • Pinched Nerves
  • Herniated Discs
  • Strains & Sprains – Whiplash

If you’re experiencing neck pain, one of the first things your Doctor of Physical Therapy will assess are possible “red flags” that could indicate a serious underlying condition and potential referral to the appropriate specialist. In addition, your provider will look for any indications of a possible concussion, as these can be quite prevalent with head and neck injuries.

While many clinics treat neck pain it is important to understand that not all physical therapy clinics are the same. Clinics that focus heavily in modalities (like heat/ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation/TENS, and massage/manipulation) tend to see slower progress and increased recurrence of symptoms when compared to clinics that take a broad-based approach on function, task-specific training, and patient-centered management. The staff at Ascent Physical Therapy have all undergone function based training to ensure that important warning signs that indicate underlying medical emergencies are not missed and symptoms are resolved with as little interruption as possible.

The Connection Between Migraines and Neck Pain

Neck pain and migraines have a complicated relationship. While in some cases a severe injury to the neck can lead to severe headaches, in other situations neck pain could be the result of a severe migraine. Either way, it is never a good idea to assume that one is the result of the other. Seeking treatment for neck pain when the cause of your concern is actually a migraine will not lead to successful pain management. The best thing that you can do when experiencing neck pain and headaches is to consult with a physical therapist to determine the cause of your pain and to address the issue from there.

Unfortunately, one of the leading reasons as to why neck pain is often so difficult to treat is because it takes a long time before it is taken seriously. Waiting too long to address your neck pain following an injury can lead to severe pain—and can make the injury more difficult to manage.

The most common reasons people seek treatment for neck pain and headaches include:

  • Chronic migraines and tension headaches
  • Loss of full neck functionality, including becoming unable to turn one’s head completely
  • Soreness in the neck, shoulder, and upper back
  • Stabbing pains, especially in the neck
  • Pain radiating from the neck and shoulders to the fingertips

In addition to these physically painful symptoms, many who struggle with chronic headaches will develop additional symptoms, such as nausea, impeded vision, difficulty concentrating, severe fatigue, and even difficulty sleeping.

While there are some situations in which the cause of your headaches or neck pain may be clear, such as being in a recent car accident or suffering a sport-related injury, in many situations the cause is not as obvious. In some situations, serious pain can develop from issues that you may not take seriously, such as poor posture or even dietary concerns. Driving long distances or working for hours on end at your desk can also weigh heavily on your neck and can lead to chronic migraines. It is common for a physical therapist to have to spend time working with you to determine what might have caused the pain in the first place. Determining the cause of the pain can increase precision for treatment in alleviating pain, as well as help you to prevent the injury from happening again in the future.

A Problem You Shouldn’t Ignore

Neck pain is typically not a type of pain that you can isolate from the rest of your body. You may think that you are experiencing minor neck pain and that it is totally unrelated to other health issues that you are experiencing, but more often than not you will be surprised at how wrong you are. Patients who seek treatment from their neck-centered issues are often surprised to learn that some other problems they’ve been experiencing might be related. So even if you think you can “live with” not being able to turn your neck fully, other problems can develop, and those problems may be more difficult to cope with.

Call us today so our physical therapist can help you quickly resolve the debilitating neck pain you’re feeling now – and learn how to prevent it in the future.

Tension Headaches in Happy Valley

While there are many types of headaches, often there is a physical component that is either the cause of a headache or a symptom of a headache. Periods of heightened tension caused by injuries like whiplash, carrying heavy backpacks, driving long distances, poor sleep, or just by stressful work or life events can be enough to cause a chain of symptoms that result in headaches.

  • Tension headaches are common symptoms of neck and shoulder pain, usually presenting on both sides of the head. They may be the first symptom you feel or remember despite having other underlying factors that caused them to start. Physical therapy is particularly well suited to resolve these symptoms and treat underlying conditions to prevent them from becoming a recurrent problem.
  • Treating postural and alignment issues alone without careful consideration of the function that resulted in a change in posture is an incomplete treatment for this condition. Combining manual techniques with skill training and activity modification is the most common path to lasting relief.
  • Migraine Headaches are a blend of physical irritation and neurologic input that become noxious, resulting in pain. They commonly cause changes in vision and other sensations. They can be triggered by many different things including underlying medical conditions, exposure to a persistent noxious stimulus, infections, changes in medications or other stimuli.
  • They must be carefully screened and monitored to assess the need for a further referral but are often successfully managed by patients independently with Physical Therapy based interventions, independent strategies, and patient education.
  • Cervicogenic Headaches feel like the pain wraps over your head and just might cause your eye to pop out and fly around the room. There are three main culprits that commonly cause this type of pain, the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, and suboccipital muscles. These powerful muscles not only play a large role in the posture of your neck but assist in carrying, lifting and protecting your neck from injury. However, when they are improperly used they can compress and irritate the extensive network of nerves in the back of your neck and into your scalp, causing persistent and intense headaches.

If headaches have been interfering with your life, call us today to get started on a plan of care that works for you. Ascent Physical Therapy is conveniently located off Sunnyside Road in Happy Valley. We also love treating our neighboring communities of Damascus, Gresham, Clackamas, and Sandy at our top-rated physical therapy clinic!

Treatment for Tension Headaches

Headaches are a widespread problem in our society but not all headaches are created equally. Here are the 3 most prevalent forms of headaches:

  1. Cervicogenic or Tension Headaches – typically driven by postures and/or increased tone in your neck and upper back musculature. Can be triggered by strains, sprains, stress, and anxiety. Commonly described symptoms of neck pain with radiating irritation from the back of the head toward the front, sometimes referred to as a “ram horn” headache.
  2. Primary Migraines – typically associated with unusual electrical and chemical signaling in the brain that results in painful symptoms which may include a somatosensory aura or “halo” effect.
  3. Tertiary Migraines/Headaches – generalized painful symptoms in the head that could have been spurred by recent illness or an infection, but could also be caused by dietary changes, such as cessation of caffeine consumption after prolonged use can result in headaches.

We can address and treat headaches of cervicogenic or tension origin. The other situations are typically addressed by consultation with a neurologist and dietary lifestyle changes. If you’re unsure what type of headaches you’re experiencing, we would be glad to provide an evaluation and consultation.

Whiplash and Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA) in Happy Valley

Despite being closely associated with MVA’s, whiplash can be experienced from any situation with a sudden change of direction resulting in involuntary head and neck motion, especially at high rates of speed. Other potential scenarios could include a sore neck from amusement park rides, or from contact/collision sports – such as football.

Common Complaints from Whiplash Injuries:

  • Headaches
  • Limited neck movements
  • Tension or pain in the neck and upper back
  • Possible concussion

More serious injuries can occur during whiplash events and consultation with a primary care provider is encouraged. If you had loss of consciousness, vomiting, feel unsteady while standing, or have a particularly strong headache – as if hit by an ice pick – you should seek out immediate medical attention.

Our providers are all Doctors of Physical Therapy and can identify when a potentially serious complication is present and will refer you to an appropriate healthcare team member as needed.
While every patient is unique, these are some broad generalized strategies that you can expect during your plan of care –

  • Massage Therapy: The gentle release of muscle tension in the neck and upper back is important to restore normal muscle tone and postures.
  • Targeted Mobility: Safe mobilization of your neck and upper back to correct any joint mechanical deviations to restore your normal range of motion.
  • Prescriptive Strengthening: Restoration of neck strength has the strongest research of any treatment for neck pain. Controlled progressive loading of the muscles will result in increased stability and shared balance of load under strain.
  • Home Program: We will provide you with a comprehensive but succinct set of activities to be performed on a daily basis (usually no more than 15 minutes in duration) to complement what you are working on at the clinic. Our programs also include free access to your specific activities online with complementary video tutorials for technique clarity.

If whiplash has been interfering with your life, call us today to get started on a plan of care that works for you. Ascent Physical Therapy is conveniently located off Sunnyside Road in Happy Valley. We also love treating our neighboring communities of Damascus, Gresham, Clackamas, and Sandy at our top-rated physical therapy clinic!

Cervical Pinched Nerves in Happy Valley

When symptoms feel like they shoot down your arm, into your back, are a bolt of lightning or you get pins and needles that won’t go away there is a chance that you have irritated a nerve. These traveling symptoms are also called “radicular” or “radiating” symptoms. It may start as a sharp pinching in your neck with a hot or electric feeling running down your arm or be a cloudy aching feeling that wraps around your shoulder blade into your arm. The most common trait is the traveling of the symptoms or “radiating” symptoms. If a nerve is pinched enough it can produce weakness that is temporary or even permanent depending on how long and hard the nerve is being pinched.

There are many ways to irritate nerves and many of them can be simply and effectively treated by Physical Therapy. It is important to carefully assess what is causing the nerve to be irritated. As we age the height of the disks in our spine reduce and the boney passageways become narrower. Some amount of this is normal and is easily accommodated by the body. When the space around the nerves becomes too limited pressure is placed on the nerve and symptoms will present in an area that the nerve connects to. Nerves in the neck talk to the shoulders, arm, and hand, and upper back. Symptoms can show up suddenly or gradually depending on how the nerve is involved.

Imaging studies can help understand what structures are involved, however, studies have shown that just because an x-ray or MRI shows results that look suspect there may not be symptoms or symptoms may be coming from a different source entirely. In fact, studies have shown that the majority of people without any report of back or spine problems had “abnormal” MRI findings. Physical Therapy evaluations focus on functional testing and interventions that restore your ability to lift, walk or work without pain or radiating symptoms.

Physical Therapy also can help restore and maximize the space that the nerves in your neck have to move through. Many times arthritis can cause bone spurs that block motion and irritate nerve roots. By addressing the stimulus that cause the bone spurs to grow and the arthritis to develop faster than is appropriate symptoms typically begin to resolve. Herniated and bulging disks are worsened by impaired postures and positions of the neck. Unloading techniques can help decrease the bulge of a disk, especially if the herniation is not severe. When treating radicular symptoms it is important that providers continually screen and assess if the symptoms that you are having are coming from an underlying medical condition. If your symptoms are unchanged or become worse with treatment ask your provider if you need further medical assessment. This is why your physical therapist at Ascent Physical Therapy has advanced training in screening and referral patterns for cervical radiculopathy.

While there is no way to tell the future, it is possible to reduce your risk of these types of injuries. Certain activities and jobs increase degenerative changes in the neck that can increase the risk of having a nerve injury. Careful planning and assessment combined with a highly specialized training program based on your needs and the demands of your job will reduce the likelihood of having nerve injuries. Most of these programs can be taught in just a few visits if there are no other complicating factors. In general staying active and strong, combined with a good diet and management of other health conditions is a good start to promoting good cervical spine and nerve health. If you have specific questions feel free to contact us so we can schedule a time to sit down and address our concerns.

If neck pain has been interfering with your life, call us today to get started on a plan of care that works for you. Ascent Physical Therapy is conveniently located off Sunnyside Road in Happy Valley. We also love treating our neighboring communities of Damascus, Gresham, Clackamas, and Sandy at our top-rated physical therapy clinic! For more information, Contact us at Happy Valley & Sandy, OR centers.