Physiotherapy Q&A: I often get headaches in cold weather, what's causing this?

When I am out in the cold weather I often get headaches that feel as though they are linked to increased tension in my neck and shoulders. Could this tension really be the cause?

Tension headaches are a well known type of headache but the exact cause of tension headaches is not known. Experts used to think tension headaches were caused from muscle tightness in the neck, scalp and face, perhaps as a result of heightened emotions, tension or stress. But some research has shown muscle tightness is not always associated.

It is worth considering the following points but if they fail to make an improvement to your symptoms you may want to seek some further guidance from your GP or see an experienced Physiotherapist who can assess whether any joint or muscle stiffness from your neck is contributing to the pain:

  • Keep the neck and scalp warm when out in the cold, using scarf’s and hats
  • Keep the shoulder muscles loose by carrying out stretches or shoulder circle movements regularly throughout the day
  • Use heat packs to keep the muscles around the neck and shoulder warm after being out in the cold
  • Try to keep your stress levels down as stress is known to increase the tension in these muscles
  • Treat yourself to regular neck and shoulder massages if you can to let the experts keep your muscles relaxed and you stress free!

Matthew Carr, Chartered Physiotherapist

Page last reviewed on 25/11/2014