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The Link Between Headaches and Neck Pain

The connection between headaches and neck pain is both complex and obvious. There are sometimes physical reasons while other times the problem might include psychological and social contributors. Regardless of the causes, headaches and neck pain frequently occur together. 

When connected head and neck pain is only an occasional problem, it’s easy to shrug off. Chronic or frequent pain issues impact your life more deeply, so understanding the link between headache and neck pain may improve your ability to function comfortably through the day. 

The team at Active Care Chiropractic & Rehabilitation specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of both headaches and migraines and neck and shoulder pain. Often, the relief of one leads to relief from the other. 


One reason it’s sometimes hard to trace a connection between headaches and neck pain is that each of these general symptoms can have a wide range of causes. Headaches come in over 200 different forms

Because of this, the chicken-and-the-egg question of which came first produces an answer of “both.” Sometimes, it’s the headache that causes the neck pain. 

This is most common with migraines and tension headaches. These are both forms of primary headache, pain that’s its own event and not a symptom of another condition, disease, or injury. 

Tension headaches stem from muscles in the scalp and neck, usually in response to a psychosocial stimulus like fear, stress, or worry. Pulling of tense muscles creates the physical sensations of headache pain. 

With migraines, neck pain sometimes precedes the pain cycle of the headache, but as many migraine sufferers know, a migraine episode often has stages prior to the start of headache pain. The migraine is the primary cause of secondary neck pain. 

Other headache types that cause neck pain include temporomandibular joint headaches and a condition called hemicrania continua that creates a nonstop headache affecting one half of your skull. 

Neck pain

Neck pain can sometimes be the primary condition, and head pain resulting from it are secondary headaches. Perhaps the most common of these neck issues is the cervicogenic headache, or CGH. 

CGH typically starts with dull pain around the neck that then radiates up the back of the head, spreading across the forehead, temple, eyes, and ears. Most of the time, CGH affects one side of the head, but it’s possible for it to affect both sides. 

Disorders causing CGH trace back to problems like herniated discs in the neck, spinal joint conditions, or damaged nerves. 

Occipital neuralgia is much like CGH except its pain symptoms are more intense and sharp. It, too, usually affects one side of the head. 

Most headaches and neck pain conditions benefit from chiropractic treatment. The goal of an adjustment is the restoration of balance and blood flow while minimizing pressure and irritation of nerve tissue. 

Visit the nearest of our six locations at Active Care Chiropractic & Rehabilitation, regardless of the cause of your headache. Call or click to book your appointment now.

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