headaches from neck pain

Do you suffer from both neck pain and headaches? Or maybe you’re struggling to find the cause of your chronic headaches after ruling out diet, vision, or sleep-related issues. 

Headaches can be debilitating, they can impact your ability to socialize, exercise, work, and even sleep. There are many different causes of headaches, and it can be confusing to unravel what exactly is causing yours. From migraines to eye strain and even caffeine withdrawals, headache causes are varied and notoriously hard to pin down.

Or, could your neck be the cause of your headache? Read on to find out:

  • Can neck pain cause headache?
  • What can you do to get rid of neck pain and headache?

Cause of Headaches Where Head Meets Neck

When the upper neck joints aren’t functioning at their best, they can actually refer pain up into your head. Referred pain simply means that you feel pain in a different location than the actual problem area. So in this case, even though the upper neck needs some work, you end up feeling pain in the head instead of, or in addition to, the neck. This is called cervicogenic headache (CGH). 

Headache from neck pain illustration

One thing that differentiates CGH from other headaches is that it typically starts after having your neck in the same position for a long time (or even just an awkward position for a short time). This type of headache is usually one-sided and starts at the back of the head, working its way up and around the ear to the forehead and behind the eye. You might even have some pain into your shoulder and arm. You’ll also likely notice some stiffness and neck pain with turning your head or looking up and down. 

Does any of this sound familiar?

If so, you’re in luck! Headaches like this are often caused by easily fixable problems. Physical therapy is wildly successful at treating these types of headaches. 

How to Relieve Neck-Related Headaches

The first step to fixing neck-related headaches is identifying the root cause. A physical therapist or other healthcare professional will be able to determine exactly what’s happening in your neck that’s causing your headaches and draw up a treatment plan to get you pain free as quickly as possible.

Once a therapist determines that issues in your neck are indeed the source of your headaches, they can perform hands-on treatments to get the neck joints and muscles moving more freely. They’ll follow that up with specific exercises to improve coordination, strength and flexibility of the muscles that support your head. These could include muscles around the neck, shoulders, and upper back. (Spoiler alert – one of these could be to address your tight pec minor.) Your physical therapist may also check out posture at your desk or in your car to reduce the amount of time spent in positions that could be aggravating your neck. A combined approach of education, hands-on treatment, and targeted exercises work in conjunction to target the root cause of your headaches and relieve CGH for the long term.

Exercises That Help Relieve Pain

Prone I

Supine chin tucks

Shoulder pain can be closely related to neck pain and headaches. Find out how  neck & shoulder pain are related and what you can do to start healing today.

You don’t have to suffer from chronic headaches. In fact, if your headaches are caused by musculoskeletal issues in your neck, putting off treatment could make the pain worse over time. If you’re dealing with neck pain and headaches, call us today to schedule a free Discover Visit where one of our doctors will evaluate your situation, identify the cause, and provide you with solution options.


Blog image: https://riversidepainphysicians.com/whiplash-headache/