How & Why Does Occipital Neuralgia Develop
Much of the feeling in the back and top of the head is transmitted to the brain by the two occipital nerves, which emerge from the spine in the upper neck and travel to the top of the head.
Irritation of an occipital nerve anywhere along its course can cause a shooting or stabbing pain in the neck, radiating over the head. Between bouts of shooting pain, there also can be a constant ache. Other symptoms can include dizziness and nausea.
Symptoms can be mild or severe in and could include the following:
- Shooting or stabbing pain in the neck radiating over the head
- Constant headaches
Occipital neuralgia is the neck/head pain that results from injury or irritation to the occipital nerves. It can be caused by trauma, such as a car accident, by a pinched nerve root in the neck or by tight muscles at the back of the head that entrap the nerves.
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Can Neck Pain Cause Dizziness And Headaches
One of the most common areas where chronic pain exists is in the neck. Many people have reported feeling pain in this area, as it is used all of the time and often mistreated.
Poor posture, injury, or natural degeneration of tissue are some examples of what could be causing pain in this area. Due to the sensitive nerves and blood vessels in the neck, pain often comes with symptoms other than those traditionally associated with pain .
Some individuals report feeling dizzy, nauseous, getting headaches, and vertigo while experiencing pain in the neck.
Read on to find out what may be causing these symptoms, what to look out for, how this condition is treated, and alternative therapies that offer new hope for sufferers of neck pain.
Can Neck Conditions Cause Headaches Or Migraines
Given the strong correlation between neck pain and migraines, it is worth considering neck pain treatments in conjunction with your efforts to mitigate migraine attacks. You can achieve both of these objectives simultaneously through comprehensive, multi-disciplinary neck pain and migraine treatment.
Tightness in the muscles of the shoulders and neck can often lead to headaches. The tightness stimulates the nerves that travel from the neck to the head. When the nerve impulse begins to fire, the pain can move to the head, where a headache can occur. This type of disorder, a cervicogenic headache, is called that because it stems from the cervical spine .
Migraine attacks arising from neck pain can also occur, although they are not as common, as noted by Dr. David Salisbury, DO. The exact processes through which a migraine arises in the head are not yet completely evident. However, the mainstream neurological understanding is that a blend of changes occur within the head’s blood vessels and nerves. Neck tightness could lead to a migraine in exactly the same manner as a cervicogenic headache: it could stimulate the nerves that go to the head, but a migraine could arise instead a likelier scenario in someone who experiences regular migraine attacks.
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Can Neck Pain Cause Headache And Dizziness
Of course, yes, neck pain and dizziness may happen together in a few instances. This condition becomes worrisome when pain flares up. Causes of neck-related dizziness include
- Whiplash, in this condition, joints and muscles in the neck affect proprioceptors and lead to dizziness.
- Cervical Spondylosis, in this condition, the intervertebral joints and discs break down leading to dizziness and compression of blood vessels.
- Vertebrobasilar insufficiency leads to the compressed brain which in turn leads to dizziness.
- Bow hunters syndrome compresses the vertebral artery leading to dizziness. Cervical myofascial pain syndrome causes painful neck fascia and muscles leading to dizziness.
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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Can Sinus Infections Cause Neck Pain And Stiffness
A sinus infection may not affect all the sinus chambers. Some sinus infections create pain around the eye sockets, while infections in other chambers can cause sinus neck pain. Sinus pain from a sinus infection is typically worse in the morning, making it difficult for people to begin their day.
Most neck pain from a sinus infection is caused by inflammation or an infection of the sinus cavities behind the eyes. Its important to monitor these illnesses, as an infection in this particular area is more likely to spread to the brain.
Treating A Pinched Nerve In Your Neck
Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following treatments:
- Cervical collar. This is a soft, padded ring that limits motion. It allows the neck muscles to relax.
- Physical therapy. Following a specific set of guided, physical therapy exercises can strengthen neck muscles, improve range of motion, and relieve pain.
- Oral medication. Prescription and OTC medications your doctor might recommend to ease pain and reduce inflammation include aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen, and corticosteroids.
- Injections. Steroid injections are used to lessen swelling and relieve pain for a long enough period for the nerve to recover.
Surgery is an option if these less invasive treatments dont work.
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Tips To Relieve Headaches From Neck Pain
After youve figured out the cause of your neck pain and headaches, there are things you can do at home to help ease the pain and start to feel better. Heres how to relieve headaches caused by neck pain:
1. Improve Workplace Ergonomics
Adjusting how you work is good for preventing headaches caused by pain in the neck. How you sit at work can put strain and pressure on your neck. If possible, adjust the height of your monitor so you are looking directly at it rather than up or down.
If you sit, choose a chair that is the appropriate height for you. Your feet should rest flat on the floor when you sit, and your knees should be a few inches from the edge of the chair. If you have to look down at paperwork while on the job, consider getting a stand to hold the documents at eye level so you arent constantly bending your neck.
2. Improve Your Posture
Your posture has a significant effect on how your neck feels. If you regularly slouch, you put a lot of extra weight on the head and neck, leading to pain and discomfort.
The first step toward improving your posture is becoming aware of it. When you stand, notice the angle of your back, neck and shoulders. Try to stand up as tall and straight as possible. That means pulling in your stomach and pushing your shoulders back slightly. Your head should be level as if you are balancing a book on it.
3. Improve Your Sleep
7. Try Heat and Cold
Treating The Neck Pain / Headaches
Treatment of the neck can help with headaches and decrease the frequency and severity of symptoms of headache. This includes common treatment procedures such as massage, strengthening of associated muscles and stretching of involved muscles .
The combination of manual therapy and exercise has proven an effective treatment for neck pain compared to many other alternative treatment types . The combination of these treatments is important, as mobilisation and manipulation only provides short-term relief. Exercise appears to have the added benefit of improving pain and function over long term . Therefore, the combination of both treatments can combine pain reduction with long-term changes . The exact type of manual therapy and manipulative treatments is still speculative and varies according to individual practitioners. Similarly, exercise therapy requires further research and the exact type of strengthening is difficult to determine.
Learning new behaviours associated with common tasks, such as sitting down and looking down to read a book or read your phone for long periods of time can also assist with treating your neck pain. As prolonged postures in a specific posture can increase neck pain frequency, and subsequently induce more headaches .
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It Could Be From A Bad Headache
Headaches caused by muscle tension or muscle contraction can cause neck pain and blurred vision, in addition to other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Headaches that are caused by inflammation in the temporal artery have similar symptoms, though they tend to manifest more frequently with throbbing pain around the temples.
Migraine headaches can also cause blurred vision, however localized neck pain is not common. Your doctor can advise you on treatment for these types of headaches if they are causing your symptoms.
- Headaches caused by muscle tension or muscle contraction can cause neck pain and blurred vision, in addition to other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Head & Neck Pain Treatment
Patients with occipital neuralgia can go undiagnosed and suffer for many years because symptoms can mimic more common headaches such as migraines. However, this condition requires a very specific treatment plan, making an accurate diagnosis essential for pain relief. Once diagnosed, occipital neuralgia typically responds well to treatment. A board-certified pain physician can offer you the most advanced non-surgical options available, enabling you to return to an active lifestyle.
Contact National Spine & Pain Centers toschedule an appointment with an affiliated pain specialist for Occipital Neuralgia treatment today.
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Cervicogenic Headaches Start In The Neck
A cervicogenic headache starts in the cervical spineyour neck. Sometimes these headaches mimic migraine headache symptoms. Initially, pain may begin intermittently, spread to one side of the patients head, and become almost continuous. Furthermore, pain can be exacerbated by neck movement or a particular neck position .Cervicogenic headache pain may be felt behind the brow and forehead, even though the problem originates from the cervical spine. Photo Source: 123RF.com.
What Causes Neck Pain
The neck is also called the cervical spine. Its made up of seven bones responsible for supporting the head and allowing nerves to travel from the spine to the brain. When any part of the neck is injured or strained, pain can occur. Some common causes of neck pain include:
- Your car: How you drive can contribute to neck pain. The way you sit in the drivers seat should make it easy for you to hold your spine straight without leaning forward or craning your neck. If the seat is too far back or too low, youre likely to lean forward and put stress on the neck. Driving for long periods can also cause eye strain, which can lead to discomfort in the neck.
- Your phone: If youre always checking your phone, you might have noticed soreness in the neck. Looking at your phone with your head dropped and your shoulders stooped affects your necks curve, potentially leading to problems. When youre stooped forward, theres more weight and pressure on the neck, which can lead to muscle strain.
- Your work style: Sitting in front of a computer or at a desk all day is known to contribute to spinal problems, including neck pain. If your computer monitor is too low or too high, you have to strain your neck to clearly see the screen, putting more pressure on your neck.
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How Do These Types Of Headaches Occur
There are many reasons a person may get a neck-related headache. One of the most common reasons is car accident injuries.
Whiplash is one of the most common injuries treated by an auto accident doctor. Whiplash is also a common reason for people to have neck-related injuries. For those who receive a car accident injury in New York, make sure you look for a doctor who takes no-fault insurance.
Other reasons these headaches might occur:
- A prolapsed disc in the neck
- Poor posture
- A compressed or pinched nerve in the cervical spine
Its even possible to have a cervicogenic headache from sleeping funny. Most of these reasons occur because a muscle has been mildly injured or a nerve has been pinched.
Are Your Shoulders Giving You Headaches
Do you know that 47% of the adult population will have a headache at least once within a year according to the World Health Organization? 45 million Americans complain of headaches each year, 8 million visit their doctor, and 3 million went to the emergency room according to US Department of Health and Human Services.
Even minor headaches can be a nuisance that create stress, social and emotional impacts not only on the individual, but also on all those around them. A majority of headaches are related to tension headaches and are typically of a mechanical nature. This means that the muscles and joints in the neck and shoulders are strained, causing irritation and spasms that trigger headaches. These can be felt in the neck, shoulders, one side of the head or face, and even the forehead.
The large shoulder muscles around the scapula play a large role in supporting the neck. Having proper posture, movement and support of the neck and shoulder musculature is the key to having a healthy neck. In todays environment sitting at the computer, staring at mobile devices, sitting for prolonged periods and more, weakens the muscles of the shoulders and upper back.
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So How Can Physio Help
Joint mobilisations can relieve stiff neck joints. Traction and gentle manipulation may be required.
Unstable neck joint will require specific muscle recruitment and strengthening techniques.
Tight or tender muscles will require a combination of stretching, massage, dry needling and muscle release techniques.
Other treatments involve posture correction, education as well as techniques to combat nerve dysfunction.
Gentle Massage To Get Rid Of Neck Pain And Headache
Gently massaging the back of your neck and base of your skull can help to relax your neck muscles, release pressure from a pinched nerve, and give relief from headache pain.
Dr. William H. Blahd on WebMD recommends massaging the painful area between your shoulders, top of your neck, and back of your head for quick pain relief. This helps to increase blood circulation to the affected area and relieve pain naturally without using medication.15
You can also use essential oils in a massage oil to quickly get rid of that neck headache. Essential oils like peppermint, lavender oil, and eucalyptus oil are especially effective for neck pain and migraines.
How to use essential oils for neck pain and headache relief:
For other essential oils that you can use in the pain-relief massage blend, please read my article on the best essential oils for severe headaches.
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Neck Pain And Cervicogenic Headache
Cervicogenic headache usually begins as a dull ache in the neck and radiates upward along the back of the head, almost always one-sided. Pain may also spread to the forehead, temple, and area around the eyes and/or ears. CGH is caused due to an underlying disc, joint, muscle, or nerve disorder in the neck.
CGH is a secondary headache that occurs when pain from an underlying source in the neck is felt in the head. Common causes of CGH include injury or trauma to the cervical spine, or systemic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or infections.
Massage For Ear And Neck Pain
Massaging the back of your neck can help to relieve neck and ear pain that is caused by cervical spine arthritis, occipital neuralgia, or headaches.
According to the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, regular massaging the cervical spine can help to relieve chronic neck pain. Massage techniques can alleviate the symptoms of spinal degenerative diseases.15
How to massage your neck to relieve pain:
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Can A Stiff Neck Cause Headaches And Back Pain
Pains in the back of your head or neck pain can also travel down your spine and cause middle back pain or weakness in your shoulders. A stiff neck that is a result of neck pain can also affect the range of motion in your upper body and head. For example, turning your head from side to side could aggravate the headache.
When The Shoulder Is The Suspect
Shoulder pain is most often caused by an injury to the rotator cuff, a group of tendons and muscles that stabilize the joint. The rotator cuff develops wear and tear with age, and can be easily injured. When this happens, we compensate by using different muscles to pick things up or reach for them. This may cause both shoulder and neck pain, says Dr. Ricchetti. You may have a rotator cuff injury or other shoulder problem if pain:
- Develops in the shoulder itself or on the outside of your upper arm.
- Is dull and aching.
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