Is There a Link Between Neck Pain and Headaches?

Mar 14, 2023

Is There a Link Between Neck Pain and Headaches?

Headaches that start in the cervical spine (neck) are often mistaken for migraine or tension headaches. However, physicians categorize headaches caused by neck issues as cervicogenic headaches. Treatment focuses on solving the headache by addressing the spinal condition.

Fortunately, our team at Coastal Spine excels at diagnosing and treating painful spinal conditions, including those responsible for cervicogenic headaches. 

Serving New Jersey from six locations, our group is committed to relieving your pain as quickly as possible by addressing your discomfort at its source.

Check these facts regarding the link between neck pain and headaches and how we can help.

How does pain in your neck travel to your head?

Although your neck is the shortest portion of your spine, it’s a complex structure of discs, joints, nerves, ligaments, and muscles vulnerable to injury and chronic disease.

For instance, degenerative changes in the neck can compress and irritate nerves exiting the spine. Because these nerves control sensation and movement in your shoulders, arms, neck, face, and head, a pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain in areas the nerve serves.

Occipital neuralgia is a type of cervicogenic headache resulting from pinched or inflamed nerves and neck muscle tightness. 

Symptoms of occipital neuralgia can include throbbing pain in the back of the head, scalp, and forehead. You may also experience pain behind the ears or eyes, nausea, and sensitivity to light or sound.

Otherwise, cervicogenic headaches typically occur on one side of the head, usually include neck stiffness, and may worsen when you move your head.

Which conditions cause neck-related headaches?

Cervical spine issues that may trigger headaches include:

Poor posture, often related to improper head position during screen time at work or home, is another common cause of neck pain and stiffness that often results in headaches.

How are neck-related headaches treated?

Your initial evaluation at Coastal Spine includes a detailed discussion of your symptoms and a physical exam. Your provider also obtains imaging studies to identify problems in the cervical spine that may trigger your headaches.

Based on the evaluation, your treatment strategy may include conservative measures such as physical therapy, neck massage, pain medications, and activity modification to relieve pressure on the involved spinal structures.

You may also respond well to steroid injections to decrease inflammation and soothe irritated nerves.

While rarely our first option, surgery may be necessary for severe degenerative changes in the spine that don’t respond to conservative treatment.

Schedule an evaluation at Coastal Spine today for a comprehensive assessment and relief for neck-related headaches. Call the office nearest you today.