What is The Cause of Headaches and Neck Pain?

Jan 8, 2024Blog, Headaches and Migraines0 comments

Blog about cause of headaches and neck pain by Converse Chiropractic


Most people will experience a headache at some point in their life. Having neck pain alone is challenging enough, especially if it involves neck stiffness and reduced head mobility. Usually, they resolve themselves over time; however, continuous headaches prevent you from completing daily activities and should be looked at by a professional. When a headache is also present, additional problems may include increased pain, visual disturbances, concentration issues, dizziness, or other afflictions. To understand the root of your headaches, refer to this information from Converse Chiropractic in Spartanburg, SC for relief.

Neck pain and headaches can originate from various issues. In some cases, the root problem lies in the neck, leading to symptoms that radiate towards the head. Conversely, certain issues might commence in the head, resulting in pain that extends down to the neck. It’s crucial to precisely identify the underlying cause to develop an effective treatment plan that can alleviate the discomfort and manage the condition effectively.

Headaches Caused by a Neck Problem

Cause of headaches on the Converse Chiropractic Blog

Occipital neuralgia pain originates in the upper neck and spreads to the head. Image veritashealth.com.

Headaches stemming from a neck problem are usually chronic and vary in type depending on the cause. Common examples may include:

Cervicogenic Headache (CGH)

CGH typically starts with mild pain in the neck and progresses upward towards the back of the head, typically affecting only one side. The discomfort can also extend to the forehead, temple, and the areas surrounding the eyes and ears. This condition arises from issues related to discs, joints, muscles, or nerves in the neck which are all a common cause of headaches. See What is Cervicogenic Headache?

Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia manifests as intense, sharp, and electric-shock-like pain in the back of the head, neck, and ears. Usually affecting only one side, the pain originates in the upper neck and then radiates to the head. This condition is a result of irritation or damage to the occipital nerve. See Occipital Neuralgia at American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Headaches such as CGH that result due to another underlying condition are called secondary headaches. Headaches that are not associated with another underlying condition are called primary headaches.

Headaches That May Cause Neck Pain

TMJ Disease example. cause of headaches that may cause neck pain

Temporomandibular joint headache is a dull ache that originates at the temples and may resemble an earache. Image veritashealth.com.

Certain headaches may cause pain to be radiated to the neck. Examples of headaches causing neck pain are:

Tension Headache

Tension headache, a prevalent type of headache, is marked by moderate to severe, steady pain in the forehead, scalp, and neck. It arises when the muscles in the scalp and neck tighten, often due to stress, anxiety, fear, or emotional factors.

Migraine Headache

A migraine is a type of headache that frequently recurs, characterized by moderate to intense throbbing or pulsing pain, usually on one side of the head. Accompanying symptoms often include nausea and a heightened sensitivity to light and sound. It’s common for neck pain to be associated with migraines, which can either precede the onset of a migraine or happen concurrently with the migraine episode. All persistent headaches, specifically migraines, should be addressed by a professional for headache treatment.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Headache

TMJ headaches typically present as a persistent, dull pain around the temples and the TMJ area, sometimes mimicking an earache. These headaches can be caused by various TMJ disorders, such as muscle, ligament, or bone degeneration in the TMJ area, TMJ injury, or TMJ dislocation. Neck pain may also arise from muscle fatigue or weakness associated with TMJ issues. Bruxism, the involuntary habit of grinding or clenching teeth, often leads to fatigue and tension in TMJ muscles, resulting in facial and neck discomfort. Many individuals may not be aware they have this condition as it can occur unconsciously and often happens during sleep. TMJ disease is a well-known cause of headaches, even migraine headaches.

Hemicrania Continua

This is a primary headache with an unknown cause, typically presenting as a constant, moderate-intensity headache on one side. The condition also involves episodes of severe intensity, during which the pain expands to other areas such as the neck, shoulder, and the region around the ear.\

Other types of headaches or problems in the head may also lead to neck pain.

Diagnosing and Treating Neck Pain and Headache

Clinicians use information from the features of headaches, physical examination, and diagnostic tests to make an accurate diagnosis of the type of headache. It is also possible for two headaches to occur together. Treatment of primary headaches includes medications for both immediate relief and sustained relief (by preventing future attacks). Treatment of secondary headaches focuses on the underlying condition to control symptoms which is where Chiropractic Care at Converse Chirporactic can be life-changing.

When Is Headache and Neck Pain Serious?

Graphic showing root causes of headache and neck pain.

Neck pain and headache, along with arm pain, and numbness demand immediate medical attention. Image veritashealth.com.

It’s strongly recommended to seek urgent medical care if neck pain and headache are accompanied by any of these symptoms:

  • Pain and numbness that extends down one or both arms
  • A stiff neck paired with a high fever and/or a headache
  • A headache that occurs following activities like coughing, sneezing, running, bending, straining during a bowel movement, or performing a Valsalva maneuver (trying to exhale forcefully with a closed mouth and pinched nose)
  • Experiencing seizures, difficulty speaking clearly, loss of balance, or blurred vision
  • Unexpected weight loss or persistent nausea

These signs could point to severe health issues like aneurysms, meningitis, stroke, or tumors. Neck pain stemming from trauma at the skull’s base, like that from car accidents or sports injuries, should be treated as an emergency and addressed immediately.

Help Yourself Fist to Avoid Headaches

Taking time to improve your own health is the best headache relief suggestion a Chiropractor in Spartanburg can give. Make sure to make time to move around if you are sitting all day during your job. It can be a simple walk around the office or some stretching, anything but sitting in the same position.

Demanding exercises should be put on hold during periods of common throbbing headaches. Working out is still acceptable, just reduce the stress on your body by avoiding heavy weights or strenuous lifts. Lastly, staying hydrated is a great tip for avoiding headaches. Make sure to drink water throughout the day!

Visiting Your Chiropractor

After considering these tips, if headaches are still occurring you should contact our Spartanburg chiropractic team at Converse Chiropractic today to schedule an appointment. With a simple spinal adjustment, the alignment of your vertebrae can reduce and eliminate your headache pain. At Converse Chiropractic our team can assist with any questions you may have.

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