neck pain

Neck Pain & Headaches

The Connection Between Migraines and Neck Pain

Neck pain and migraines have a complicated relationship. While in some cases a severe injury to the neck can lead to severe headaches, in other situations neck pain could be the result of a severe migraine. Either way, it is never a good idea to assume that one is the result of the other. Seeking treatment for neck pain when the cause of your concern is actually a migraine will not lead to successful pain management. The best thing that you can do when experiencing neck pain and headaches is to consult with a physical therapist to determine the cause of your pain and to address the issue from there.

Unfortunately, one of the leading reasons neck pain is often so difficult to treat is because it takes a long time before it is taken seriously. Waiting too long to address your neck pain following an injury can lead to severe pain—and can make the injury more difficult to manage. By the time people seek treatment for their neck pain and headaches, it’s not because of the occasional twinge, but rather for problems that have lasted several months. The most common reasons people seek treatment for neck pain and headaches include:

  • Chronic migraines and tension headaches
  • Loss of full neck functionality, including becoming unable to turn one’s head completely
  • Soreness in the neck, shoulder and upper back
  • Stabbing pains, especially in the neck
  • Pain radiating from the neck and shoulders to the fingertips

In addition to these physically painful symptoms, many who struggle with chronic headaches will develop additional symptoms, such as nausea, impeded vision, difficulty concentrating, severe fatigue, and even difficulty sleeping.

While there are some situations in which the cause of your headaches or neck pain may be clear, such as being in a recent car accident or suffering a sport-related injury, in many situations the cause is not as obvious. In some situations, serious pain can develop from issues that you may not take seriously, such as poor posture or even dietary concerns. Driving long distances or working for hours on end at your desk can also weigh heavily on your neck and can lead to chronic migraines. It is common for a physical therapist to have to spend time working with you to determine what might have caused the pain in the first place. Determining the cause of the pain can increase precision for treatment in alleviating pain, as well as help you to prevent the injury from happening again in the future.

A Problem You Shouldn’t Ignore

Neck pain is typically not a type of pain that you can isolate from the rest of your body. You may think that you are experiencing minor neck pain and that it is totally unrelated to other health issues that you are experiencing, but more often than not you will be surprised at how wrong you are. Patients who seek treatment from their neck-centered issues are often surprised to learn that some other problems they’ve been experiencing might be related. So even if you think you can “live with” not being able to turn your neck fully, other problems can develop, and those problems may be more difficult to cope with.

There are situations in which a pinched nerve in the neck is the cause of chronic tension headaches, in which an old sports injury that was never properly addressed is the cause of limited neck mobility, and in which a bruised vertebrae at the base of the neck causes throbbing throughout the shoulders and even hands and fingers. You may blame your chronic migraines on a busy schedule and stressful circumstances, but it may actually be a result of poor posture and the obligated hours you spend hunched over a keyboard.

Working with a physical therapist to alleviate the core cause of your pain can significantly improve your quality of life, and may be able to eliminate migraines and tension headaches from being a major disturbance in your life. While in some cases chronic migraines are indeed the result of a medical concern or dietary issue, you may be surprised by how often the result is something that can be resolved with targeted exercises and stretches with an experienced physical therapist. In addition, you may find that the problems you’ve been having with shoulder mobility — or shooting pains down your arms and hands — often spring from compressed nerves in your upper vertebrae.

Untreated neck pain can even lead to issues you might never expect, such as balance problems or trouble gripping objects. That’s because each of the nerve roots located in your upper vertebrae are connected to other parts of your body, from your biceps to each of your little fingers.

How can neck pain and headaches be treated?

Once we’ve pinpointed the main cause of your neck pain and stiffness, as well as headaches that we’ve determined stem from upper vertebrae issues, we’ll develop a treatment plan with you. In your sessions, you’ll be taken through moves that build strength and flexibility. Our team will also help you learn how to better position yourself during your daily life to avoid relapses, including ergonomic and posture tips.

Contact us today so we can help you quickly resolve the debilitating neck pain you’re feeling now – and learn how to prevent it in the future.


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