Does Back Pain Lead to Tension Headaches?

Ways Back Pain Can Lead to Tension Headaches in Los Angeles, CA

Because your spine consists of a series of interconnected nerves and related muscles and soft tissues, any related discomfort may affect your body in unexpected ways. This is often the case with sciatic nerve pain, which is typically felt in the thighs and legs. However, this isn’t the only unusual way back pain can affect your health. If you’ve been having tension headaches lately, the problem may be related to a muscle in your upper spine. Beverly Hills back surgeons explain the possible links between back pain and tension headaches.

Vertebral Subluxation and Tension Headaches

Vertebral subluxation occurs when there’s some type of misalignment with spinal bones due to improper motions or movements that affect nerve communication. This is what may lead to tension headaches, the most common type of headache. Symptoms that can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days may include:

  • Dull, aching pain around the eyes
  • Pain that gradually increases in intensity
  • Tenderness in shoulder muscles
  • Pressure extending from the forehead to the back of the head

Reduced Range of Motion in the Spine

Vertebral subluxations in the neck and upper spine may reduce range of motion in the upper spine enough to affect the rectus capitis posterior minor muscle located in the back of the head and neck. If this muscle spasms, it may affect a tendon that goes from your upper neck to the lower part of your skull.

Stimulation of Dura Mater

A spasm that starts in the upper spine may affect the outer membrane of the spinal cord and brain (dura mater). Since this membrane is especially sensitive, the stimulation from the muscle spasm may trigger a tension headache. While your brain has no feeling, stimulation or irritation of the dura mater can result in the symptoms characteristic of tension headaches.

Posture and Tension Headaches

Any type of stress on your upper spine may set off the domino effect of a muscle spasm and stimulation of the dura mater. For instance, poor posture may stress your spine enough to trigger this reaction and cause a tension headache. Being mindful of your posture as you sit and stand throughout your day may reduce your risk of getting a tension headache. Preventive efforts may also include:

  • Exercising regularly to retain your spine’s range of motion
  • Using ergonomically designed chairs if you have to sit for most of your day
  • Incorporating foods that naturally reduce inflammation (green, leafy veggies, fatty fish, almonds, berries) into your diet
  • Stretching before you exercise
  • Getting sufficient sleep so tissues in your spine can naturally heal

If you do experience tension headaches because of back pain, you may be able to find relief with the help of over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin. These NSAIDs reduce inflammation and sometimes prevent muscle irritation by allowing the bones and joints of the spine to move normally. When home remedies or medications aren’t working, visit your doctor to see if there are other treatment options available or if your headaches have another source.

There are a variety of things that can cause pain in and around the spine, and there are also a wide array of treatments. At The Spine Institute Center, we specialize in minimally invasive procedures like laminectomy surgery and transforaminal interbody fusion. Beverly Hills patients can trust in Dr. Hyun Bae to help find an effective solution for relieving their pain. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.