Neck Pain and Headaches with Wil Seto

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from TLR. I'm here with Wil Seto of Insync Physio in Vancouver and North Burnaby. We're going to talk about neck pain and headaches. How are you doing Wil? 

Wil: I'm doing great, Mark. 

Mark: So what kind of, obviously your neck or your head is going to be hurting, so what other symptoms might people have or why would they want to come and see you about this?

Wil: Yeah, so these types of headaches that are neck related are 20% and it usually is followed by, you know, it can be non traumatic, so not followed by an injury, but is most common followed by an injury.

And the main symptom is that it's usually on the same side that you have the headache but it can be on both, but it's usually on the same side. Particularly when you have problems with movement or postural issues that bring on the pain in the neck, which will also bring on the headache pain.

Mark: So those are the causes. So it could be, you've been in an accident or fallen or been hit somehow in playing sports. Jarred some way and that's caused a neck problem, but then that radiates up into your head or you don't even feel the neck necessarily. It just suddenly you have a headache. 

Wil: No, usually it's related to neck pain and it's usually on the same side. And the other really important thing to understand too, is that if it's sort of this like unusual type of headache and is not related to any neck pain and especially if it's like all of a sudden and it's unrelenting. Then I strongly, we strongly recommend seeing a medical practitioner and getting a medical diagnosis for it.

It could be something else that's a little bit more serious. But when it comes to related to the neck pain, the neck pain and the headache. It's definitely something that is correlated when you have an issue, like if you're moving and you have postural issues related to bringing it on and it will normally elicit that headache. So they usually go hand in hand. 

Mark: So those posture issues could be from how you're sitting, while you're working, for instance, if you're at home on your laptop or how you slept that night kind of thing, are those also possible causes? 

Wil: Yeah, absolutely. And then what ends up happening sometimes too, like you're talking about posture, like if you're on the computer too long, like, you know, we're just with what we've kind of shifted over to now with working at home now more these days. That you have a lot of imbalances that can occur. Or then you have a lot of muscles that are then always on and then your core stability muscles that are now really basically down trained. And that need to be strengthened a little bit more. 

Mark: So when someone comes in with this, how do you go about diagnosing it? 

Wil: Yeah, so first you need to rule out a bunch of other things just to make sure. And so with this type of headache related neck pain, the common term is called cervicogenic. And really this cervicogenic type of headache, there's really a few main causes that we already talked about briefly. We're looking at whether or not is a joint related, is it muscle related or is it ligament related. And so we can ascertain and really determine whether or not it's coming from one of those three areas. And that's when it usually is correlated with a headache. 

Mark: And based on what you found then, does that determine what the course of treatment is going to be? 

Wil: Yeah, there's really good research studies and good clinical basically results shown that combining manual therapy, so manipulations of the joints. And also movement of the joints with what's called mobilization techniques with using your hands. And also soft tissue techniques that open up the soft tissue to allow things to move a little bit better combined with specific exercises. Are really good for basically helping with these types of syndromes and dysfunctions.

Mark: So that would be the typical course of treatment as you get a little bit of lovely massage and movement, but also then you have exercises that you do in office and then go home with and continue to do. Is that right? 

Wil: Yeah, because the idea is that you want us to reset things a little bit more in the muscular system as well. So things that are really like tight and imbalanced in that way, that are not letting go, you want to reset that, let that to relax, and then you need to work on training the movement pattern function of other muscles that are just not working properly. And so that way that compliments them and gives you a more optimal posture and movement in the neck.

Mark: So, of course it depends on the injury, but how long would it normally take to have some relief of the pain, whether it's in the neck, head or both? 

Wil: It really depends. Like the studies have shown that it can be fairly immediate, like within a couple of sessions. And then if it's like something that's long standing, it's a chronic issue you know, if there's more going on in the joints. Then it could take a little longer and it could be sort of a longstanding thing. So really depends. But in our experience, you know, working with clients that have this issue, if it's not an issue that's involving a lot of things in the joints, then it really can take as little of even one session I've seen, up to like a few sessions, you know, and it's completely gone. But the hardest part is retraining the whole muscle movement patterns and the whole optimizing the movement function. 

Mark: So, if you want to get headache free and neck pain free, the people to see in Vancouver or North Burnaby are Insync Physio. You can book online at or you can call the Vancouver office to book 604-566-9716 or in North Burnaby 604-298-4878. Get in there and get feeling better and moving properly. Thanks Wil. 

Wil: Thanks Mark.