Tension Headaches Linked to Weak Neck Muscles

May 13, 2015, by Dr. Becky Coats

A new study from Denmark has linked neck muscle strength to chronic tension headaches, and researchers recommend that strength training might help people with headaches. This link also highlights the important role of the temporomandibular joint and jaw muscles in mediating headache pain.

A Small, but Promising Study

Headaches and Neck MusclesIt’s important to note that this study is very small, so its conclusions aren’t strong, but they are promising. The study compared 60 adults with tension headaches and compared them to 30 healthy adults. To qualify for the study, headache sufferers had to have chronic tension headaches, defined as at least 8 days of headaches out of the previous 30 days with no more than three migraines.

People with regular tension headaches had neck and shoulder muscles that were 26 percent weaker than healthy adults. In many cases, headache sufferers also had strength imbalances between sets of muscles that hold the head up. The imbalance is typically between the flexor muscles, which bend the head forward and the extensor muscles which bend the head back. The flexor muscles tend to be significantly stronger in people with tension headaches.

Try Core Training

The researchers suggest that this problem is due to poor posture at work due to more time spent with smartphones, tablets, and laptops, which are often used with the head bending forward, what some have dubbed “text neck.”

To combat this strength imbalance, researchers recommend core strength training, which can help the body get stronger and help balance the muscles in the body. It’s important to talk to a doctor before starting a new workout, but the general health benefits are good, even if it doesn’t reduce your headaches.

If Core Training Doesn’t Work

But what can you do if your strength training doesn’t help with headaches? It might be that the problem is more localized. Another common cause of weak muscles and muscle imbalance in the head and neck is TMJ. In TMJ, an imbalance in your jaw muscles can be passed on to other muscles that partner with them, such as those in your head and neck.

If you suspect that muscle imbalances might be contributing to your headaches, we can help. Please call (817) 481-6888 to learn more about TMJ treatment in Grapevine at Grapevine Dental Care.