Can My Migraine Stem From The Neck?

Don’t worry… the 7 magical questions are coming. Some housekeeping first.

Lets first define a type of headache known as a cervicogenic headache. This is a headache that stems from the cervical spine. The pain actually arises from the bony structures or other tissues in the neck.

How does this relate to your migraine?

It is believed that the nerves that carry information from the bones and other tissues in the neck meet up with another sensory nerve that distributes sensation to the head and face. This is called referred pain as the neck is the underlying pain generator, but the pain itself is felt in the head or face. As far as pain goes, that migraine like pain could be a neck problem.

In one study, 75% of people with migraines reported neck pain or stiffness associated with their migraine pain. Neck soreness accompanying your headache is a good indicator the neck may be a source of pain. This cross-over of referred pain from the neck makes it difficult to distinguish between a migraine and cervicogenic headache.

So how do you know if you really have a cervicogenic headache?

Answer yes to these questions and there is a good bet it’s coming from the neck!

Is the pain…

  1. On one side of the face or the head?
  2. Moderate to severe pain intensity?
  3. Intermittent attacks of pain?
  4. Generally deep and non-throbbing?
  5. Triggered by neck movement or weird neck postures?
  6. Restricting your neck motion?
  7. Also present with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light and sound?

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Kaniecki RG. Migraine and tension-type headache: an assessment of challenges in diagnosis. Neurology. 2002;58 (9 Suppl 16):S15-S20.

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