The Overlap of Neck-Related Headaches & Migraines

“Cervicogenic headache may mimic those commonly associated with primary headache disorders such as tension-type headache or migraine and as a result, distinguishing among these headache types can be difficult.”

– David M. Biondi, DO

Why do I share this?

Because this is an established Harvard professor of medicine who is getting at the relationship between the neck and headaches/migraines. Not only does he establish a relationship, but further advocates for a conservative approach to care, meaning physical therapy and hands on techniques to restore proper mobility in the neck. This is something that you won’t find on WebMD, but should be common practice.

The quote above gives a snapshot of the type of information that Dr. Biondi uncovers in his search of a cause of headache pain. The argument is not that all headache and migraine pain comes from a neck issue, but rather there is a significant amount of overlap in the symptoms that a migraine, tension type or cervicogenic (neck related) headache will present with. This makes it difficult to make an accurate diagnosis.

If it is difficult to make a diagnosis, why not rule out the really bad conditions (more on this in another post) and then refer to or go straight to a physical therapist to receive care that addresses the cervical spine. If it doesn’t work, we should have that information within a couple weeks. If this conservative step is missed, it could be that the neck needed to be treated all along and now you are sent home with medications that are limited in their effectiveness and little to no hope of significant long term relief.

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