Know How To Find The Cause Of Neck Pain To Establish A Specific Diagnosis And Expedite Treatment
Jeffrey Gehret, DO, Sanjay Yadla, MD, John K. Ratliff, MD, and Steven Mandel, MD
Delineation of neck pain can be difficult due tothe number of potential pain generatorsin the head and neck region that have similarreferral patterns. Overlapping pain patternsoften lead to misdiagnosis. Pain may bemultifactorial in this area, especially in the agingpatient with degenerative disease in multiplejoints.
Cervicogenic headache describes pain referred tothe head from a source in the cervical spine.1 Thediagnosis of this disorder is controversial. Someauthorities believe that clinical criteria alone aresufficient, while others, including the InternationalHeadache Society, require confirmatory tests toestablish the diagnosis.1 A multidisciplinaryapproach is often required to adequately managethis disorder. A thorough history and physicalexamination of the neck and occipital region coupledwith appropriate diagnostic testing can help toprovide an accurate diagnosis of the pain generatoror generators.
The mechanism of pain referral is thought to be aconvergence of input of cervical and trigeminal afferentsin the trigeminocervical nucleus. Cervical afferentsinclude the C1-C3 spinal nerves and explainupper cervical pain referred to the occipital and parietalregions. The trigeminal nerve afferents wouldallow for referral into the face and head regions.14,15
Whos Most Likely To Get A Tension Headache
As a tension headache doesnt have a unique cause it doesnt have a single target either. Young people leading life on a fast lane can suffer from this as well as older people. Even teens can experience tension headaches as they are under a lot of pressure that meeting different deadlines and transition to college can cause.
The Link Between Neck Pain And Migraines
Chronic migraines affect around 2% of people across the world, according to The Migraine Trust, and a high number of those affected deal with significant impairment during migraine attacks. More recent studies have shown that many individuals who deal with migraines also experience neck pain. The neck and head are obviously closely connected, but whats the link between neck pain and migraines? Do migraines result in neck pain, or is neck pain causing your migraines?
How Common is Neck Pain Among Migraine Sufferers?
The 2018 Migraine in America survey uncovered the fact that 69% of migraine sufferers surveyed reported dealing with neck pain when they have migraines. Another study published in the Headache journal discovered that among the 113 individuals evaluated, neck pain was more common for migraine patients than nausea. Many people report that the neck pain begins before a migraine, although for many, this precursor goes on to last through the migraine attack, as well.
Migraine Neck-Related Symptoms
With some studies showing that neck pain may be even more common than nausea in migraine sufferers, its important to be aware of some of the symptoms of migraine that are related to pain and discomfort in the neck. These include:
While many people write off the above symptoms as related to neck pain, in many cases they could actually be a sign of a migraine attack.
Causes of Migraine and Neck Pain
Keeping Track of Neck Pain and Other Migraine Symptoms
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Symptoms Of Headaches On Top Of The Head
While its often simple to tell if youre experiencing a headache on top of the head, some of the related symptoms may surprise you, as they can reach into the neck and even affect your senses.
What are the symptoms of a headache on top of the head? The symptoms of a headache on top of the head include:
- Pain, either constant or throbbing
- Tightening sensation
- Jaw pain
- Sensitivity to light or noise
Patients generally wont experience all of these symptoms, but each will experience pain at the top of the head.
They may also feel pain in other parts of the head simultaneously, like the side of the head or the back of the head. Some patients even experience ice pick headaches as well.
Dont Try Neck Exercises Without An Experts Help
If you strained your neck, its tempting to try and do some stretching or exercises yourself. But DIY treatment may not be helpful and could make it worse.
The neck is very complex, Dr. Estemalik says. Thats why physical therapy is key to treating this type of headache. Your physical therapist can identify which muscles are involved. They can guide you through exercises to strengthen the core muscles that need it. They also help you avoid overusing certain muscles that could cause more pain.
Without expert guidance, you could further strain your neck or work on the wrong areas.
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Further Reading: Symptoms And Conditions Of Craniocervical Instability
In this article, Symptoms, and conditions of Craniocervical Instability, Dr. Hauser has put together a summary of some of the symptoms and conditions that we have seen in our patients either previously diagnosed or recently diagnosed with Craniocervical Instability, upper cervical spine instability, cervical spine instability, or simply problems related to neck pain.
For many of these people, symptoms, and conditions extended far beyond the neck pain, radiating pain of cervical radiculopathy, headaches, TMJ, and possibly dizziness usually associated with problems in the neck. These peoples symptoms and conditions extend into neurologic-type problems that may include digestion, irregular cardiovascular problems, hallucinogenic sensations, vision problems, hearing problems, swallowing problems, excessive sweating, and a myriad of others.
I want to point out that the symptoms and conditions you will see described below can be caused by many problems. This article demonstrates that craniocervical instability and cervical neck instability can be one of them.
How Can You Relieve Tension Headache Pain
Here are some tips to help you manage the cause of your tension headaches:
- Get an eye exam. If youre straining to read, or keep tilting your head up and down to use those off-the-shelf glasses, you may need a new pair of glasses.
- Redesign your workstation. Simply raising your computer monitor or getting a document stand can help reduce repeated head tilting that can strain the occipital muscles.
- Avoid slouching and practice good posture. Consider trying yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. All of these disciplines are great forms of exercise and all can help to improve posture. Also, you may want to consult a physical therapist, chiropractor, or movement therapist for exercises that are tailored to your need.
- Get a 30-minute massage that concentrates on the neck and upper back. This can help relax your muscles and relieve your headache pain.
- Try applying a hot pack to the base of the head. Do this for 15-20 minute intervals.
- Stuff two tennis balls into a sock and tie it off tightly. Lie on your back on the floor. Place the tennis balls under the base of your skull and allow your head to compress against them. Gently rock your head back and forth and side to side for a few minutes.
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Tips For Relieving Headaches Caused By Neck Pain
You know the signs of a headache, such as a dull ache or a feeling of tightness creeping up your neck and across your forehead. Headaches are among the most commonly occurring ailments in the world. More than half of all women report having tension headaches at some point, and one-third of all men report the same. In the U.S., 20% of women and 10% of men said they had a severe headache at some point in the past three months. Multiple factors can trigger a headache, depending on the type. In some cases, a headache is due to neck pain.
Learn more about the connection between pain in the neck and headaches below and what to do for headaches caused by neck pain.
Treating A Tension Headache
Your doctor might recommend any of a variety of medications, including:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers. These include ibuprofen or acetaminophen .
- Prescription pain relievers. Examples include naproxen , ketorolac tromethamine , or indomethacin
- Triptans. These drugs treat migraines and would be prescribed for someone experiencing tension headaches along with migraines. An example is sumatriptan .
For migraine, your doctor might also recommend preventive medication, such as:
- blood pressure medications
A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve in your neck is irritated or compressed. With so many sensory nerve fibers in the spinal cord in your neck, a pinched nerve here can result in a number of symptoms, including:
- stiff neck
- headache caused by moving your neck
Other symptoms can include shoulder pain along with muscle weakness and numbness or tingling sensations.
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Neck Pain With Headache Treatment
There are many treatments for this condition and the foremost thing a doctor does is diagnosing the root cause. Based on the reason he may treat with various medicines and therapies that may include OTC drugs, prescribed medicine, muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, and posture adjustments. They may also recommend physiotherapy if needed.
Do You Have More Questions About A Headache Caused By Neck Injuries
Headaches can occur for many reasons, and this includes neck injuries. The difference between neck-related headaches and others is that symptoms occur in correlation to neck movements of some kind.
Do you have more questions about a headache caused by neck injuries? Or were you injured in a car accident and are now having cervicogenic headaches?
Call 1-800-897-8440 or fill out the form below. One of our associates would be happy to answer any questions you still have. They can also assist in finding you an experienced auto injury doctor who accepts no-fault insurance.
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Allergies And Sinus Problems
Having an allergic reaction or infected sinuses can create the pressure that causes headaches. However, a stuffy nose could also be a symptom of a migraine, so you may not be experiencing an allergy or sinus problem. The runny nose may be a symptom of your headache condition.
These are just a few of the many possible causes of headaches. Not lets take a closer look at the neck and see why so many headaches also present with neck pain.
Seek Professional Care For Cervicogenic Headaches
People suspected of having cervicogenic headache should be carefully assessed by their doctor to exclude other primary or secondary causes of headaches.
Nerve blocks are used both for diagnostic and treatment purposes. If numbing the cervical structures abolishes the headache, that can confirm the diagnosis of cervicogenic headache and also provide relief from the pain.
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Why Do Neck Pain And Headaches Occur Together
There is no one special reason for headaches and neck pain to go together. Few conditions may begin as neck problems and then shoot these problems up to the head, while few problems triggered in the head are sent back to the neck. This is the reason why they both occur together.
Trigeminocervical nucleus, Dura Mater of the brain, brain tissues, and blood vessels in the head and immune system also have their role for the occurrence of these pains together. Besides, the posture of the body can also lead to both the pains at a time.
To explain it further, a combination of 1 or multiple pain mechanisms and pathways is most responsible for the cause of neck pain and headache together.
Neck Pain With Headache Causes And Treatment
Headaches and neck pain go hand-in-hand for many reasons, a stiff or strangled neck most of the time leads to neck pain with a headache. These headaches are commonly called cervicogenic headaches. Knowing how to take care of such headaches caused by the sensitivity of nerves in the neck can help you a long way in avoiding other complications especially in the head and the region near the neck.
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Headaches Due To Cervical Stenosis
Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the open area of the vertebrae, or the spinal canal, in the neck. The spinal cord contains numerous nerves that run from the brain to the lower back,
Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the open area of the vertebrae, or the spinal canal, in the neck. The spinal cord contains numerous nerves that run from the brain to the lower back, and these nerves are critical to movement, body control and other essential functions. When the cervical spinal canal, or the vertebrae between the head and chest, becomes narrowed, it can compress one or several pain-sensitive structures in this area.
The upper three spinal nerves are linked to the trigeminal nerve, which is the faces main sensory nerve. Other pain-sensitive structures in this area include nerves, the lining of the spine, the joints, ligaments and vertebral arteries in this area. When the nerves in the cervical vertebrae are irritated or inflamed, the pain can be felt in the had rather than the neck, leading to a cervicogenic headache.
Those who suffer from cervicogenic headaches can have a variety of symptoms, including:
- A reduced range of motion in their necks
- Pain that worsens with certain movements
- Pain that worsens when pressure is applied at certain points on their necks
- A one-sided headache
- Pain that radiates from the neck or back to behind the eye or the front of the head
- Physical therapy
Your Office Setup May Be To Blame
A major injury like a fall or accident isnt the only trigger for these headaches. If your desk or office chair causes you to slouch or strain, you could get a cervicogenic headache.
When you sit at a desk too long, you may have your neck flexed down, Dr. Estemalik says. You might arch your back while youre sitting. This can bring on a cervicogenic headache.
Look into proper ergonomics for your office if you sit at a desk. Focus on keeping your back and neck straight while you sit, says Dr. Estemalik. Make sure youre not bending forward.
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Understanding Neck Pain & Cervicogenic Headaches
Headaches happen for many different reasons. More often than not, it can be hard to determine the type and cause of a given headache. Sometimes, a headache will affect other areas of the body, such as the upper spine, or cervical region.
A cervicogenic headache feels very similar to a migraine, so they are easy to misdiagnose. That said, there is one major difference between the two. A stems from a problem in the cervical spine, whereas migraines arise from the brain. Stress, tiredness, eye strain and trauma can all cause headaches. A is different in this regard, as they are caused by problems with the neck muscles, bones, or nerves. Although a patient may report pain from the head, it doesnt necessarily start there. With a , the pain is actually referred pain from another location in the body.
Does A Pinched Nerve In The Neck Cause Headaches
One of the more common medical causes of headaches are pinched nerves in the neck. Pinched nerves in the neck cause headaches by compressing the nerve which generates a feeling of pain along the nerves pathway.
Cervical Radiculopathy is a medical condition where a nerve in the upper spine becomes compressed. This can be caused by a number of issues including:
- Having a herniated disc
- Narrowing of the spinal canal
- Degenerative disease that affects the bones in the spine
The location of the pain can help doctors determine where the pinched nerve is to begin treatment. Other symptoms that are common to cervical radiculopathy include:
- Pain in the neck or shoulders
- Sharp pain
- Feelings of numbness or tingling
- Nerve related symptoms that can be felt in the arms
Risk Factors for Cervical Radiculopathy
Certain individuals are at a higher risk for developing radiculopathy. This includes individuals who:
- Spend large amounts of time sitting or driving
- Have a chronic cough
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What Exactly Does A Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor Do Unleashing Proper Nervous System Function
Blair Upper Cervical doctors are specially trained to find spinal misalignments in the upper cervical spine. This is determined by running the prospective patient through a battery of neurological tests that locate the spinal segments that have been injured and misaligned by a prior neck injury.
Once located, precision imaging in the form of digital x-ray or cone beam computed tomography is used to precisely determine which joint has misaligned and the angulation of the offending joint.
Each persons anatomy is different and therefore imaging is used to uncover the blueprint to be used to correct each patient’s individual misalignment pattern. Once this information is gleaned, a gentle, light correction is made without twisting, popping, or pulling.
The patient is then monitored overtime to ensure that the correction is holding. If the testing indicates the need for another correction, then it is performed. However, the goal of Blair Upper Cervical Care is for the patient to stay in adjustment.
It isnt the correction that produces healing. It is the removal of nerve irritation and the adjustment holding in its normal position that allows the body to function better and proceed through a healing process.
If you or a loved one is looking for natural cluster headache relief our offices offer a FREE consultation.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic For Natural Neck Pain Relief
Upper cervical chiropractic targets the top two bones in the neck. Since this is the location where the nerves of the head come from, it makes sense that a misalignment in this region could be causing head pain. This specific form of chiropractic care is very precise. X-rays allow for measurements down to hundredths of a degree. These measurements will enable a practitioner to develop an accurate adjustment for you personally. Then the correction is administered gently, with no popping or cracking of the neck. It is safe and gentle for patients of all ages and health levels.
Once the upper cervical spine becomes properly aligned, this should help with neck pain. The surrounding soft tissue will gradually stabilize and help hold the bones in place, so while you may need a few adjustments initially, you can later switch to occasional checkups. That also makes upper cervical chiropractic cost-effective, which is rare when it comes to pain relief.
You also get the central nervous system benefits that result when you have a free flow of blood to the brain, and nothing is inhibiting the function of your brainstem. For these and many other reasons, upper cervical chiropractic has been able to help many patients with neck pain and headaches.
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