The Link Between Migraines and Neck Pain

The Link Between Migraines and Neck Pain

Migraines are a surprisingly prevalent and misunderstood neurological disease, affecting 39 million Americans of all ages and a staggering 1 billion people worldwide. And many people who get migraines also experience neck pain.

This is especially true among those living with chronic migraines, which is when you have 15 or more headaches a month. In fact, 80% of people with chronic migraines also have neck pain.

That's why it's crucial to understand the link between headaches and neck pain, so you can receive targeted and effective treatment to get relief once and for all. In this blog, our talented team from Valley Neurology and Pain in Arizona explains what can cause migraines, why neck pain can be a symptom of migraines, and how you can get relief.

Why migraines and neck pain can be related

Current evidence shows that migraines likely develop because of abnormal cell activity and hypersensitive neurons in the brain and nervous system, including branches of the trigeminal nerve.

The trigeminal nerve controls facial sensations and muscle functions, such as biting and chewing. It's also heavily involved in most migraine headaches.

When abnormal electrical activity begins spreading over the brain, the trigeminal nerve starts sending pain pulses and releasing substances that increase inflammation in blood vessels in the area. This response triggers those telltale migraine symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Throbbing headache
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Neck pain

The central-most part of your trigeminal nerve lies in the highest vertebrae of your cervical spine, or neck.

Signs that neck pain is due to a migraine

It's common to see neck pain along with headache conditions, such as tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches, and migraines. However, there are some telltale signs that can indicate that the neck pain is due to a migraine. These signs include the following:

  • The neck pain occurs before and/or during your migraine attack
  • The pain and tightness is on the same side of your neck as your headache
  • The pain is in the upper neck region
  • The neck pain worsens with certain positions
  • The pain radiates into the lower neck and even into your shoulder

Neck pain with migraine headaches often feels dull, achy, or tender, but not sharp or severe. Neck pain with migraines should not cause sensory changes, such as numbness, tingling, or weakness. Instead, those symptoms are often associated with other causes, such as pinched nerves.

Why your diagnosis matters

An accurate diagnosis is key to treating any condition, but it's even more important when it involves migraines. This is because, as noted earlier, neck pain can be associated with other types of headaches, not just migraines.

To diagnose your headache condition, we review your medical history, discuss your symptoms, and physically evaluate your spine and neck. In some cases, we may also rely on diagnostic imaging to pinpoint the precise origin of your headache pain.

Based on our findings, we may recommend therapeutic injections or other treatments to manage your migraine and neck pain, such as:

  • Facet joint injections
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Occipital nerve blocks
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Manipulation under anesthesia (MUA)
  • Interlaminar epidural injections
  • Transforaminal epidural injections
  • Trigger point injections

These targeted treatments can help address migraine and neck pain at the source. However, you may need treatment on a regular basis to successfully manage chronic migraines or other headache conditions.

It's also important to note that we don't treat migraines with oral medications. This is because one of the most common reasons chronic migraine problems develop is due to the overuse of medications given to treat headaches.

At Valley Neurology and Pain, with three convenient Arizona locations in Phoenix and Peoria, you are never a number. Your consultation, examination, and treatment are always administered by a highly qualified physician. If you would like to schedule a migraine consultation, we have experienced physicians who can help you, including Toure Knighton, MD, Jin Yuk, MD, and Patricia Henthorn, DC, DAAMUAP. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone today.

Valley Neurology and Pain of Arizona Phoenix Magazine Top Doctor Award - Valley Neurology and Pain of Arizona

phone 480-508-2700

fax 866-371-2839

place 426 E Southern Ave Ste 101 Tempe, AZ 85282

place 2330 N 75th Ave Ste 113 Phoenix, AZ 85035