That Headache Could Actually Be a Pain in Your Neck

headache, neck pain

Your head is bent in front of your computer screen, and you're wondering why that tight feeling in your neck is slowly creeping toward your temples. Persistent neck stiffness is often debilitating and experienced as a sharp pain at the base of your skull. Irritated spinal nerves may be triggering painful headaches.

At Kinexis Healthcare in Estero, Florida, our highly experienced team of doctors specializes in addressing musculoskeletal health concerns with physical and chiropractic therapy.

How neck pain and headaches can be related

Tears in the cervical discs in your spine can cause unwanted pressure on spinal nerves. Damage to these nerves results in tense neck muscles.

Stiff neck syndrome can be intensified by a faulty pillow or mattress that does not support a good sleeping position. Sleeping on your side or back will cradle the natural curvature of your spine, helping you avoid a stiff neck. Tense muscles can cause secondary pain to develop as a headache. Tension and cerviogenic headaches are two types of headaches that arise as the result of a stiff neck.

A stiff neck does not always signal cause for concern. If headaches are persistent, become unmanageable, or are associated with a high fever, this could indicate something more serious. Neck stiffness can be a symptom of damaged organs or structures in your neck indicated by the presence of swelling in the occipital lymph glands.  

Types of headaches caused by a neck injury

There are numerous causes for headaches, but if your pain develops in your neck, it could be chronic hemicranial pain, also known as cerviogenic headache syndrome.

Cerviogenic headaches

Cerviogenic headaches are secondary headaches, where the source of pain often results from a neck injury. Disorders, lesions, or pinched nerves located in the spine or soft tissue of the neck trigger headaches. Pinched nerves radiate pain to your head, shoulders, and back, often leading to a reduced range of motion.

If you suspect you’re suffering from cerviogenic headaches, consult with one of our doctors about treatment options. Treatment for cervicogenic headaches is individualized based on your unique needs. Some options include: physical therapy, exercise, prescription medication, or nerve blocks. All treatment options work to alleviate pain in the neck, ultimately ridding you of your headaches.  

Tension headaches

If your headache feels like a rubber band is tightening around both sides of your head, you may be experiencing a tension headache. These types of headaches are common and associated with muscle pain.

Up to 80% of adults experience tension headaches, with women being twice as likely to get them as men. Tension headaches start as a pain in the back of your neck that gradually travels to meet the area around your temples. These  headaches are often caused by lack of sleep or stress. Pain from tension headaches won't impair your physical abilities or vision. However, some symptoms of tension headaches include fatigue, sensitivity to light, irritability, or insomnia.

Treatment options for headaches associated with neck pain

There are several techniques and treatment options that you can try to alleviate symptoms, many of which you can perform from the comfort of your own home. Here are some ways that you can manage your pain.


Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that helps you manage stress. By attaching electrodes to your skin, electrical signals are able to deter pain signals away from your neck area. This method trains your muscles to relax, ultimately keeping you from developing tension headaches.

Heat pack

Place a heat pack at the base of your skull to loosen neck muscles and soothe sore joints. Heat wraps are best for preventing muscle spasms that cause headaches, while ice packs work better for tension headaches.

Using a tennis ball

Lie flat and place a tennis ball between the back of your head and your neck. Move your head from side to side, making sure to maintain pressure on the tennis ball. This motion can alleviate pain from neck muscles.

Massaging  the affected area

Massaging the back of your neck can help you relax tense muscles. Working out the knots in the area between your shoulders, neck, and back of your head may provide temporary relief from headaches.

For more severe cases, a doctor may recommend prescription-strength muscle relaxants or medications like antidepressants, which have been known to prevent tension headaches from reoccurring.

When to see a doctor

You should seek medical intervention when headaches become persistent or cause sensitivity around your temples, numbness in your arms, or a high fever. If you're experiencing seizures, speech impediments, or impaired vision, schedule an appointment with one of our specialists immediately.

Medical Procedures

The experts at Kinexis Healthcare may suggest a medical approach to your pain if other treatments have been unsuccessful.

Stop suffering from chronic neck and head pain; request an appointment with one of our doctors online or call our office today.

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