Neck Physiotherapy and Its Impact on Concussion-Related Headaches



The profound relationship between our brain and body is especially evident in the interactions between the neck and head. Concussions, typically understood as brain injuries, can manifest an array of symptoms, with persistent headaches being a notable one. These headaches are occasionally linked to complications in the cervical spine region. Enter Neck Physiotherapy, a specialized approach that addresses the neck’s musculoskeletal system to alleviate concussion symptoms. 

Understanding Concussions and Their Manifestations

Before delving into the influence of neck pain physiotherapy in addressing concussion-induced headaches, it’s crucial to recognize the complex nature of concussions. These traumatic brain injuries stem from a forceful hit or jolt to the head or body. While often linked to car crashes and sports mishaps, any substantial impact can lead to concussions. 

The range of symptoms might include dizziness, blurred vision, memory issues, and, importantly, headaches. Notably, the headache experienced post-concussion can sometimes mimic tension-type headaches or migraines, often rooted in neck problems.

How Does the Neck Connect to Concussion-Related Headaches?

The relationship between the neck and brain isn’t merely about proximity. The neck’s intricate structure, consisting of nerves, muscles, and vertebrae, significantly influences our head and, consequently, our brain. For example, the nerve pathways from the neck relay crucial environmental information directly to the brain. A disruption in this area, like the kind experienced after a concussion, can lead to misinformation being relayed, resulting in symptoms like headaches. But what exactly connects a concussion physiotherapy to the onset of headaches?

  • Neck Strain: Alongside the direct trauma to the brain, the force that causes a concussion often affects the neck as well. Whiplash, or rapid backward and forward motion of the neck, is common during concussive events. This movement can strain muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues in the cervical region, resulting in cervicogenic headaches.
  • Neurochemical Imbalance: After a concussion, imbalances might arise in the brain’s neurochemical landscape, leading to heightened pain sensitivity. Interruptions in neurotransmitters, key players in modulating pain, may cause ongoing headaches post-concussion.
  • Blood Flow Changes: Some research indicates that concussions can cause changes in cerebral blood flow. These changes can affect the brain’s oxygen supply, potentially triggering vascular headaches.
  • Sensory Overload: Post-concussion, individuals might develop a heightened sensitivity to light and sound. This sensory overload can exacerbate or trigger headaches in susceptible individuals.
  • Cranial Nerve Impact: Certain cranial nerves that play a role in the sensation and muscles of the head can be affected by the trauma. For instance, the trigeminal nerve, when irritated or compressed, can result in headaches.

Understanding the connection between concussions and headaches is crucial for determining an effective treatment approach. For many, addressing accompanying neck injuries through physiotherapy becomes a key component of their recovery.

Neck Physiotherapy: The Saving Grace

Physiotherapy, as a discipline, encompasses a range of techniques tailored to individual needs. Neck Physiotherapy zeroes in on the cervical region, applying methodologies that:

Addressing Cervical Dysfunction

Concussions can cause dysfunction in the neck’s joints and muscles. This dysfunction may result in pain signals being sent to the brain, which manifests as headaches. Neck physiotherapy employs techniques to restore the normal function of these joints and muscles, subsequently reducing or eliminating the pain signals.

Improving Muscle Tone and Tension

Following a concussion, the muscles in the neck may become tense or go into spasms, contributing to headaches. Targeted physiotherapy exercises and manual techniques can relieve this tension, promoting relaxation and decreasing headache intensity.

Restoring Range of Motion

Restricted movement in the neck can be both a symptom and a cause of headaches after a concussion. Physiotherapeutic interventions aim to restore the full range of motion, allowing for pain-free and fluid neck movements.

Strengthening Exercises

Weakness in the neck muscles can lead to poor posture and increased strain, further inducing headaches. Neck physiotherapy often involves strength-building exercises tailored to the patient’s specific needs, helping to bolster the neck’s support structures.

Manual Therapies

These include hands-on techniques such as mobilization or manipulation of the neck, soft tissue massage, and trigger point release. These techniques aid in alleviating joint restrictions and muscle tightness, which can be sources of headache pain.

Postural Education and Training

Poor posture, especially during recovery from a concussion, can exacerbate cervicogenic headaches. Physiotherapists guide patients in adopting ergonomically sound postures, both at rest and during activity, reducing stress on the cervical spine.

Modulating Pain Perception

Techniques like dry needling, electrotherapy, and ultrasound can alter the way the nervous system perceives and responds to pain, providing relief from persistent headaches.

Tailored Home Exercise Programs

Physiotherapists often provide patients with specific exercises to do at home, which helps maintain the gains from the therapy sessions and further accelerates recovery.


Concussions, while primarily brain injuries, have repercussions that echo throughout the body. The persistent headaches post-concussion sufferers experience might be more neck-related than one might think. Neck Physiotherapy provides a promising avenue for relief by not just masking symptoms but rather addressing the root cause. Concussion physiotherapy Edmonton can also be considered a viable treatment option. As our understanding of concussions grows, the importance of comprehensive care, like that offered by Momentum Spine and Sports Physiotherapy, becomes undeniably clear.

Read More

Related Articles