Neck Pain and Headaches

By Jeremy Cross – Physiotherapist at PhysioHealth

Do you have neck pain? Do headaches ruin your day? Maybe we can help!


Neck pain can be related to the dysfunction of the cervical spine and it can arise from an accident (whiplash), post-surgery, or from an unknown cause.  Neck pain can lead to headaches, shoulder pain, arm pain, and may even include pins-and-needles in your fingers.  There is a high incidence rate in Australia of neck pain and this can, in part, be associated to our earlier article “Workstation Assessment Set Up” (PhysioHealth, April 22nd 2014).

Headaches are not the only side effect of neck pain, clients can also have arm pain with 98% of cases showing symptoms on one side of the body; 97.5% of those having shoulder and neck pain combined1.  As mentioned earlier, poor posture from incorrect workstation set-ups can lead to ongoing neck pain and headaches.  Headaches can vary in strength, location and there are many different types.  Cervicogenic headaches are the most common, with pain in the ‘temple’ and throbbing pain behind the eyes.  Neck pain and headaches can be assessed, and there are a variety of methods to decrease the symptoms and reduce their severity.

Surgery is not always the option! Non-surgical interventions should always be trialed before surgical intervention is considered2.

How can your physiotherapist help?

Two different active techniques can be used to assist with your neck dysfunction.  Both will assist your recovery from neck pain and/or headaches:

Neck Specific Training and;

Physical Activity Prescription

Neck Specific Training will strengthen the muscles that support your neck.  Not only the big ones that you can see, but the supporting and stabilizing muscles of your Deep Neck Flexors and Neck Extensors; which can be identified by your PhysioHealth team and appropriate strengthening exercises can be prescribed.

Physical Activity Prescription is very simple, increasing your daily physical activity and increasing the activities that are required to improve neck motion.

Preliminary research results suggest that a combination of both techniques will result in the greatest improvement in symptoms3.

Passive techniques are physiotherapy specific techniques that can mobilize (increase range of motion) joints and restore function to the neck.  These are specific to your dysfunction and will be chosen to fit you.

 The common problem

We’ve all heard it before, “You are too stressed, and you need to relax! That will help your headache”…

As mentioned in our previous article, correct setup at the workplace is vital to reduce the occurrence of posture related injuries.  But, an understanding of your daily regime is important for self-improvement and your physiotherapist can assist you in finding the best solution for you.


It takes a combination of exercise, self-control and motivation to improve any aspect of your life.  With the assistance of your PhysioHealth team, we can develop a program that is suited for you and will support your goals.  Everyone is different and we at PhysioHealth recognize the importance of individualized programs.

Please take the time to look at our website and click on our “how to videos”. Alternatively you can download our Physiohealth mobile app on to your smart phone.

Take the time to look at the range of our postural and stretching videos we have. Always remember to speak to you Physiohealth Physiotherapist to make sure you are able to perform these exercises.


1. K. Radhakrishan, 1994

2. Rechtine, 2006

3. Halvorsen, 2014