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Can Neck Pain Cause Headaches?

neck pain

All people have suffered from headaches which range from mild migraines to intense throbbing. Most of us do not know what causes the headaches because we assume it’s a minor condition. Surprisingly enough, some of the pain can be caused by neck pains.

At times, people do experience migraines which hardly respond to conventional medication. In such cases, physicians do consider the possibility of a headache disorder. Such a disorder may be caused by complications in the upper part of the cervical spine which cause headaches. When such pain originates from the neck, it is called ‘referred’ pain. This may be shocking to many because most of us believe headaches originate from the brain or head.

How do neck pains cause headaches?

Neck pains are among the symptoms that cause headaches for some people. This pain can be caused by muscles and nerves which cause discomfort that leads to headaches. An example of the discomforts includes tightness, stiffness, neck injuries, poor posture, ruptures, and meningitis among others. From a medical perspective, the migraines are known as cervicogenic headaches (CGH) and are categorised under secondary headaches since their source is known. The three upper cervical spinal nerves and the trigeminal nerve (transmits pain from the face) have one pain centre. As a result of the joint nerve bands, the brain often misunderstands neck pain which means the pain will seem to be felt in the head instead of the neck.

In many instances, doctors can establish CGHs by reading the particular patterns in which they occur. For instance, if a doctor recognizes a neck pain that extends to the lower jaw, then there is a high possibility that the pain originates from nerves, muscles, and joints of the neck. However, pain caused by problems in the neck are not usually sore which means the headaches may be mild. There are many symptoms that one can identify with in such cases. However, such symptoms can be observed with other common illnesses. This makes it hard for a regular physician to determine the exact problem and in this case a CGH. Consultations with a headache specialist may be essential to distinguish a CGH from other headache disorders. The experts will dig into the specific muscle groups such as Occipital Neuralgia to come up with the specific disorder. This means that whenever physician tests to establish normal migraines fail, they have to test for a CGH.

Is it Rampant?

According to a survey conducted in 2010, about 113 patients exhibited signs of neck pain which concurrently happened with migraines. Another survey with a sample of 200 people showed that around 75% had experienced neck pains together with their headaches. This is evidence of a correlation between neck pains and headaches which cannot be ignored. These neck pains varied from one individual to another with the majority of persons complaining of stiffness. In other cases, patients said that neck pains occurred first then followed by headaches.

Establishing the source of a headache is one of the most complicated procedures to perform because all types of a headache share the same symptoms. However, the good thing is that they can be diagnosed and treated.