Headaches with Neck Pain

Chronic neck pain is often associated with headaches. This two-fold affliction is most frequently seen in individuals with poor posture or high levels of stress, and is usually very easily treated. Nearly one in five patients who suffer from chronic headaches also experience neck related headaches; interestingly, these types of headaches are far more prevalent in women.

Diagnostic Criteria

Typically, the headaches associated with neck pain are described as mildly to severely painful without throbbing; often they only last a few hours, but some extreme headaches with neck pain have been reported to last days or weeks. A headache with neck pain is likely to display one or more of these symptoms:

  • Inability or difficulty moving your neck
  • Arm, shoulder or neck pain
  • The headache is based only on one side of the head and does not switch sides
  • Nausea, dizziness, possible vomiting
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Vision blurred on the side of the head where pain is felt; sometimes tearing or swelling of the eye will also occur

Causes

How are you sitting while you read this? If your back is rounded with your head forward, your posture could be the source of your pain. Sometimes neck pain associated with headaches is caused by the tightening of the posterior neck muscles related to this seating position. This is called an occipital headache; basically, muscles in the neck are placing pressure on certain nerves. Luckily, if this is the source of your affliction, you can be very easily treated with posture correction and neck exercises. Other possible causes include:

  • Joints and discs in the neck which are stressed and are referring pain to the head
  • Protracted awkward neck position; a good example of this is a secretary who constantly holds a telephone receiver between her head and shoulder
  • Overuse of neck muscles
  • Degenerative neck arthritis
  • Past trauma to the neck such as whiplash, as well as injuries of the connective tissue of the neck or the spine
  • Wearing high heels too tight knee high stockings; accessories like these can stress the adductor muscles of your calves and the pain then travels from your legs to your neck, jaw and, finally, head.

 

Treatments

Prescribed treatment will depend on the determination of the cause of the headaches with neck pain; often treatment is quite successful. Typical treatments include:

  • Posture correction
  • Stress reduction
  • Neck exercises
  • Abdominal exercises
  • Stress reduction
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Massage therapies
  • Over the counter medications such a aspirin to lessen inflammation
  • If the pain is due to a past injury or trauma, there has been marked success with an apparatus called a Cervical Curve Correction Device (CCCD); this equipment uses a concept similar to braces to slowly retrain the positioning of the traumatized neck.
  • If all else fails, ask your doctor about a new treatment that has done well in clinical trials called Occipital Nerve Stimulation.
Filed Under: Neck Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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