Can my headache come from my neck? What type of headaches are they?
June 18, 2024

Absolutely, headaches can indeed originate from issues in the neck, known as cervicogenic headaches. These types of headaches are often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the pain is often felt in the head, even though the source of the pain is actually in the neck. Understanding the different types of headaches can help identify whether your headaches may be related to neck issues. As noted below, any headaches where you also suffer restriction of neck movements, including rotation and ‘lateral flexion’ of the head or without crepitus (grinding and grating noises) should be investigated further.
Types of Headaches Related to the Neck
Cervicogenic Headaches: As the name suggests, these headaches originate from the cervical spine (neck). They are typically one-sided and may be accompanied by neck pain or stiffness. The pain is usually dull or aching and can radiate from the neck to the back of the head, forehead, or around the eyes. There is often noted stiffness and restricted neck rotation or head tilting to the sides. “Grinding and grating’ grisly noises in the neck are also often present.
Tension-Type Headaches: While tension-type headaches can be caused by stress, anxiety, or muscle tension in the head and neck, they can also be related to cervical spine issues. The pain is usually described as a tight band around the head and may be accompanied by neck discomfort.
Migraine Headaches: Migraines can sometimes be triggered or exacerbated by neck issues. People with cervicogenic migraines may experience neck pain or stiffness preceding the onset of a migraine attack. The pain is often throbbing and can be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, and visual disturbances.
Occipital Neuralgia: This type of headache originates from the occipital nerves in the back of the neck and scalp (base of the skull). It can cause sharp, stabbing, or electric shock-like pain that radiates from the base of the skull to the back of the head and behind the eyes.
Causes of Neck-Related Headaches
Several factors can contribute to neck-related headaches:
Poor Posture: Slouching or holding your head in an awkward position for extended periods can strain the muscles and joints in your neck, leading to headaches.
Muscle Tension: Tight muscles in the neck and shoulders can cause referred pain to the head, resulting in headaches.
Cervical Spine Misalignment: Subluxations or misalignments in the cervical spine can irritate nerves and muscles, leading to cervicogenic headaches.
Injury or Trauma: Whiplash or other neck injuries can cause long-lasting neck pain and headaches.
How to Address Neck-Related Headaches
If you suspect your headaches may be related to your neck, it’s essential to seek a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional specializing in spine and neck issues, such as a chiropractor. They can perform a thorough evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your headaches and recommend appropriate treatment options.
In summary, headaches can indeed stem from neck issues, particularly cervicogenic headaches, tension-type headaches, migraines, and occipital neuralgia. If you’re experiencing persistent headaches, especially if they’re accompanied by neck pain or stiffness, it’s essential to consult with a chiropractor, the profession that specializes in spine and neck issues to identify the root cause and develop an effective treatment plan tailored to your needs.