Headaches and Neck Pain

The Link Between Headaches and Neck Pain

Since your neck has a direct connection to your head, a misalignment or added muscle stress may cause a headache when surrounding tissues, nerves, and blood vessels produce related pain signals. It’s an occurrence referred to as a cervical, or cervicogenic, headache, a result of neck pain that’s often overlooked.

Cervical Neck Pain Causes

From sleeping in the wrong position to experiencing a sudden jolt, there are many potential causes of neck pain that may result in headaches according to Los Angeles spine surgeons. Any movements that result in abnormal cervical spine positions or added pressure on nerves, muscles, and joints in the neck can produce headaches. Sometimes misdiagnosed as migraines, cervical headaches typically include the following symptoms:

  • Pain focused on one side of the head
  • Shoulder pain on the same side as the headache
  • Nausea and vomiting

Diagnosing Neck-Related Headaches

A cervical headache results in referred pain, or pain perceived to be coming from your head when it’s really stemming from your neck, similar to what’s experienced with sciatica. It also helps to report any neck injuries you may have sustained recently, even if there were no headaches initially. Diagnosing cervical headaches often involves:

  • Elimination of common headache sources
  • Imaging evidence of a cervical spine issue
  • Diagnostic blocks to identify nerve pain

Treating Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches won’t go away until the cause of the corresponding neck pain is correctly identified and treated. After an accurate diagnosis is made, treatments options may include:

  • Nerve blocks
  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Botox injections
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

Preventing Cervical Headaches

If you play contact sports, wear protective gear to minimize neck strain. The same applies when riding a bike or participating in any activity that may place added stress on neck muscles. You can further minimize your risk of experiencing cervical headaches by:

  • Modifying sleep positions
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Performing neck stretches

Any headache that lingers, frequently returns, or fails to respond to over-the-counter pain-relievers and a little rest should be taken seriously. While process of elimination is often involved, identifying the true source of your neck pain is the only way to keep headaches from coming back or getting worse.

If your neck pain is not responding to non-surgical treatments, it may be time to find out about other options including spinal fusion surgery and cervical artificial disc replacement. Reach out to The Spine Institute Center at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation.