Headaches And Neck Pain

Headaches and neck pain often go hand in hand. Too many times I will see a patient who tells me that their headaches start at the base of their necks and come forward up over the back of the head. Most often, the neck pain can actually trigger a migraine.

For a long time providers were not certain that neck pain could trigger a migraine, but now medical science has worked this out. Any pain or pathology at the C2 or C3 level of the neck will send messages to the area of the brain stem that generates a migraine. The pain then cascades forward to the trigeminal nerve area and then the throbbing begins.

While this type of neck pain can cause a migraine, there is other headache neck pain worth mentioning. This is a form of neck pain called cervicogenic headache and is also related to occipital headache.

Many times if numbness and tingling in the hands accompany this neck pain, there may be pathology in the neck that should be investigated futher. Things like arthritis, herniated discs in the neck, and pinched nerves all cause pain, numbness and tingling in the arms and hands. NOTE: Shoulder problems do not cause problems in the hand..shoulder pain radiates to the elbow and up to the neck but not beyond. If it is the hands..it is coming from the neck!

headache, headache symptoms

Treating Headaches and Neck Pain

Each of the following are directed at neck care and therefore can help with headache:
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatories for arthritis
  • Anti-spasmotics for neck spasms
  • Regular exercise to reduce pain
  • Anti-seizure drugs to calm down numbness, tingling and pain
Many times, neck pain is caused or exaserbated by the way you sleep at night. Using more that one pillow will make pain worse. The best headache pillow I have found and personally use is the Chiroflow pillow which I also recommend to my patients.

Of course, if this is a new onset of headaches and neck pain, and the above mentioned symptoms, call your physician and make an appointment for further assessment. VERY rarely a new onset of neck pain can actually be an aneurysm in the carotids or vertebral arteries at the back of the neck. It is especially concerning if the neck pain is accompanied by tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

Read about different types of headaches.

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