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Can Migraines Cause Chronic Neck Pain?

Migraines are persistent and often debilitating headaches that can cause severe throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of your head. For most people, migraines go hand in hand with chronic neck pain or stiffness. 

Research shows that neck pain may be more common in migraine patients than nausea, one of the more well-known symptoms. In some cases, neck pain seems to be a precursor or cause of migraines, while in others – it appears to be a symptom. 

This raises the question: can migraines cause chronic neck pain? Or is neck pain a trigger for migraines? Let’s explore the connection between these two conditions.

The Link Between Migraines and Neck Pain

Migraines and neck pain often co-occur because they share common causes, such as muscle tension, posture, and stress. Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders can lead to both migraines and neck pain. Poor posture can also contribute to muscle tension and pain in the neck and head.

Stress is another common factor that can trigger both migraines and neck pain. When we’re stressed, our muscles tense up, which can result in persistent headaches and pain in the neck muscles. Stress can also cause changes in the brain that make people more susceptible to migraines.

So, while migraines and neck pain share some triggering factors, which could partly explain why they often occur together, there is evidence to suggest that migraines may cause chronic neck pain.

Migraines as a Cause of Chronic Neck Pain

In the past, neck pain was thought to be a cause rather than a symptom of migraines. While it’s possible for chronic neck pain associated with cervical musculoskeletal dysfunction to trigger migraines, new evidence suggests that migraines may also lead to the development of chronic neck pain.

One of the areas implicated in the development of migraines is the trigeminocervical complex, a bundle of nerves that extends from the head to the neck. This delicate hub of nerves is responsible for processing pain signals in the face and upper neck.

Experts believe that the trigeminocervical complex is activated during a migraine attack, causing the pain to extend from the head down into the neck. This could explain why many people with severe migraines also experience chronic neck pain.

Another study published by The Journal of Headache and Pain also concluded that migraines are one of the leading causes of chronic neck pain.

Cervicogenic Headache VS Migraine with Neck Pain

While it’s clear that migraines can provoke chronic neck pain, it’s important to distinguish between cervicogenic headaches and migraines with neck pain.

Cervicogenic headaches are caused by problems in the neck, such as injury to the nerves, and mainly affect one side of the head. This type of headache is often mistaken for migraines because they can cause similar symptoms. These include throbbing or pulsing pain that affects one side of the head and neck and increased sensitivity to light and sound.

However, a cervicogenic headache is a separate condition from migraines, and the two require different modes of treatment. If you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with a migraine or a cervicogenic headache, it’s essential to consult with a professional.

Treating Migraines with Neck Pain

Effectively managing migraines can help reduce the severity and frequency of attacks and may also help ease chronic neck pain caused by migraines. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may prove effective in managing both types of pain.

If OTC medications don’t work, your doctor may prescribe stronger prescription medications such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, or calcium channel blockers. These medications can help prevent migraines and also provide relief during an attack.

If your neck pain persists, your doctor may opt for ketamine infusion therapy, trigger point injections, occipital nerve blocks, or Botox injections to help curb the pain. 

In addition to medication, several lifestyle changes can help ease migraines and neck pain. These include regular exercises, massage therapy, maintaining good posture, and reducing stress can all help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines and the associated neck pain.

 

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