There are a range of conditions that can cause your neck to feel heavy: concussions, anxiety or even sinus infections. However, some cases of “heavy head” stem not from your head at all, but from your neck.
In this article, we’ll explain some of the neck issues that could explain why your head feels heavy. Then, we’ll point you toward some treatment options that can help you to get your head feeling lighter again.
Neck issues that can make your head feel heavy
Here are two neck conditions that can cause you to feel like you have a heavy weight on your shoulders:
Muscle strain — Muscle strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is torn or overstretched. If you strain any of the muscles in your neck, head or even upper back, your head can start to feel heavy. After all, your head is heavy (10.4 pounds on average!), and holding up that weight can get difficult for your neck if it’s strained.
Whiplash — Whiplash is a specific type of strain that occurs when the muscles and ligaments in your neck are overextended. This usually happens when the head moves forward and backward or side to side with excessive force. It is common in people who’ve recently been in a car accident or on a roller coaster.
How to tell if you have whiplash or a neck muscle strain
If your head feels heavy and you think you may have strained your neck muscles, keep an eye out for these symptoms:
- Pain and stiffness in the back of the neck or shoulders.
- Neck pain that worsens with movement.
- Difficulty moving your neck or head.
- Headaches that start in the back of your head.
- Tingling or numbness in your upper extremities.
While whiplash usually occurs after a traumatic event like an auto accident, other neck strains are caused by repetitive injuries. For example, you might strain your neck simply by looking at your phone screen for long periods of time (this is called “tech neck”).
It can be difficult to determine whether you have whiplash or a general neck strain. Our recommendation is to consult a professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist in your area.
Can physical therapy help me get rid of the heaviness in my head?
Physical therapy can be an effective treatment for the conditions that make your head feel heavy. Here’s how:
- Strengthens neck muscles — Physical therapy helps to repair and build strength in the muscles that are having trouble holding up your head. It’s possible that your neck will even be stronger after physical therapy than it was before your injury.
- Mobilizes neck joints — Stiff neck joints can also make your head feel heavy, as they make it uncomfortable for you to move your head around. In physical therapy, you’ll practice stretches and exercises that give you more flexibility in your neck to reduce pain.
- Helps you avoid reinjury — By strengthening your muscles and improving the flexibility of your joints, physical therapy may help you to avoid similar injuries in the future. Your physical therapist might also coach you on how to move or perform your job in a way that protects your neck muscles.
- Relieves tension and pain — Your physical therapist may be able to relieve your pain immediately (at least temporarily) by performing manual therapy techniques on the affected bones and muscles. Manual therapy involves the therapist physically manipulating your joints and soft tissue to relieve tension and pressure in them.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for heavy-headedness
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address any neck pain that’s causing your head to feel heavy.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Come find a physical therapist who can help treat the neck issue that may be making your head feel heavy.