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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Headache and Neck Pain Can Be Prevented: Dr. Robb Blackaby provides insights on prevention and treatment

Aug 05, 2014 09:32AM ● By Dr. Robb Blacka

Headaches and neck pain can go hand-in-hand, which can make us unhappy as well as less productive in life. Pain in the neck and headaches are often caused by a muscle or joint problem. Poor posture, with slumped shoulders and a forward head position, can often contribute to headaches and neck pain. When we see ourself in the mirror, are we slouched, or is our head forward or tilted left or right?

Different problems within the neck can cause pain to be felt in different areas of the head. For instance, if pain radiates to the forehead or behind our eyes, this can be caused from “stuck” joints at the top of the neck. As a result, poor quality of neck movement stresses and strains the musculature, causing further irritation and discomfort.

If pain worsens in the morning, it may signify poor sleeping posture or unsuitable pillows. Try to avoid sleeping on the stomach, because this places the neck in rotation for prolonged periods. Side sleeping or sleeping on the back with the pillow supporting the neck in a neutral position is recommended. Pain at the end of the day with a complaint of a "heavy head" feeling is an indicator of muscle weakness and possible spinal instability. If this is the case, we may benefit from specific postural training and/or strengthening of the shoulder blade and spinal musculature.

There is a lot we can do to help our neck discomfort. Although challenging, the key is preventing the neck pain from starting in the first place. However, our daily activities can contribute to neck and head pain, as well. We tend to sit at computers in slouched postures, drive in cars with shoulders forward and often pick up objects improperly. All of these activities can cause neck, head and shoulder pain over time.

Some common tips for proper posture include appropriate shoulder blade positioning. Think “relax,” but don’t “collapse” the shoulders. Shoulder blades should be slightly squeezed back and down towards the spinal column. Also, ensure that the head is not tilted up, down or forward for prolonged periods of time; especially while driving and working on the computer. By having proper posture, the spinal alignment should be maintained and there will be less stress on the surrounding tissues.

Dr. Robb Blackaby, PT, DPT, ATC, CFMT, is the owner of the Desert Institute of Physical Therapy, in Scottsdale, and offers free initial consultations. For more information, call 480-998-4848 or visit

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