Are your headaches coming from your neck?

You wouldn’t believe how many people with chronic headaches and migraines I see on a weekly basis who have been put through the ringer – they’ve usually traveled to Jacksonville to meet with a team of doctors at the Mayo Clinic. They’ve exhausted the laundry list of medications that have been thrown at them. They get botox injections every 3 months to try and calm their headaches and migraines. But still – they get those debilitating headaches regularly. So what’s missing? Why isn’t anything helping?

The Complex combination of muscles, ligaments and nerves that make your head work

There is a complex network of muscles & ligaments that hold your head up and position it. And a network of nerves that provide sensory information in the back of your neck. If there’s irritation in any of these structures you can experience chronic and debilitating headaches. Unfortunately I see many patients who get the conventional medicine runaround – a series of imaging, medications and procedures that don’t actually address their pain generators. Let’s dive in and identify some of these structures that might be huge contributors to your headaches.


Nerves control everything in our body. We now understand that our nervous system is much more complex than just a series of wires that transmit information. Our nervous system acts as a specialized glandular system. This system can get irritated and that irritation can lead to discomfort and pain. The good news is that we have a specialized tool, called Neurofunctional Acupuncture that works directly on our nerves – helping to essentially clean out their receptor fields and restore function to them. In turn this helps to alleviate your pain and in many cases the changes can be significant and even permanent. Here are two important nerves that innervate many of the below muscles and can be a major contributor to your headaches.

  • Greater Occipital Nerve
  • Lesser Occipital Nerve


Muscles, like nerves can be a significant contributor to your pain experience. The below muscles, when shortened, tighten, weak (or any combination of these) can contribute to your headaches. By performing a very thorough hands on manual examination of both your range of motion and the below muscles – Dr. Josh Hanson can assess if they are contributing factors and provide an intervention to help restore function to these muscles. One of my favorite tools when muscles are involved is a very advanced form dry needling to help your headaches.

Just remember that there is a big difference between someone who has performed 35,000+ dry needling procedures (which I have) and someone who just learned dry needling at a 32 hour weekend course (which is unfortunately every physical therapist in Florida) and has 0 advanced skills.

  • Rectis Capitis Posterior Major
  • Rectis Capitis Poserior Minor
  • Obliquis Capitis
  • Sternocleidomastoid Muscle (SCM)
  • Trapezius
  • Splenius Capitis

There are 2 approaches when it comes to headaches.

1) The old way – try to suppress the signals your body sends with harsh off label medications, burning nerves that are carrying pain signals or forcing muscles that help position your head to become slightly paralyzed with botox. This approach completely ignores the fact that there is a problem and that problem is something you body can heal under the right conditions.

2) The second approach is the one I take. And that is to support restoring function and helping your tissues to regenerate and heal.

You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve helped that have headaches with a combination of dry needling, electro-acupuncture, Perineural injections of 5% dextrose and Prolotherapy.

If you’re experiencing headaches and are stuck taking rescue medications, or are living off Advil, Aleve, exceeding migraine or getting nerve ablations, then maybe it’s time for a different approach.

As always, I’m here to help.

Picture of Dr. Josh Hanson, DACM

Dr. Josh Hanson, DACM

Dr. Josh Hanson specializes in treating chronic pain and providing fertility support. He has performed 40,000+ procedures over the last 10+ years. Dr. Hanson has a clinic in Tampa, FL where patients travel from all over Florida to receive cutting edge care.

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