Is My Neck Involved?

For approx. 70% of people making a link between their neck and the pain they get from their headache or migraine is easy. This is because they get pain in the neck with their headache or migraine. If you look at Google  traffic data in relation to headaches and migraines, some of the top searched phrases are:

  • Headache back head
  • Neck pain headaches and
  • Neck headache

Sometimes the neck pain will start before their head pain, sometimes it will start during their  headache or migraine and sometimes they will be have neck pain after the headache or migraine passes. For some people they will have neck pain before, during and after the headache or migraine.

Often these people have seen a specialist and been told that their headaches or migraines are not linked to their neck and this pain is irrelevant. I often see a lot of frustration in this group of people, because no-one is taking their neck pain seriously or considering it as part of their symptoms.

I don’t get neck pain with my headaches or migraines.

For 30% of people they get no neck pain at all with their headache or migraine and so there is no obvious link for this group of people between their headache and their neck.

Research in the last 10-15 years has shown that people who suffer from chronic headache or migraine have a brainstem that  is sensitised, even between attacks. It is this brainstem sensitisation that is the cause of headaches and migraines.

There are many inputs into the brainstem in the area responsible for headache and migraine, but 2 of the major ones are the upper 3 levels of the neck and the trigeminal nerve.

In the vast majority of people we see at Bayside Headache Clinic we find a mechanical problem in the upper 3 levels of the neck that causes stress on the joints, muscles and other structures in this area. This mechanical problem is present even in people who do not get any neck pain. The information from the neck is then sent  to the brainstem, causing it to become sensitised and over stimulated.

Because of this over stimulation the brainstem reacts a bit like me when I have not had enough sleep. It is grumpy and tends to over react when extra information is added it – triggering a headaches or migraines.

Common triggers are:

  • Information from the trigeminal nerve (the eyes, jaw, face, sinuses etc.)
  • Neck tightness
  • Hormonal changes
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Stress
  • Food or drink
  • Smells
  • Exercise
  • Bright lights
  • Hunger or thirst

So even when people have no neck pain, dysfunction in the upper 3 levels of the neck can be a factor in the sensitisation of their brainstem and their headaches or migraines.

This is why at Bayside Headache Clinic we believe that everyone who suffers from headache or migraine should get an expert examination of the upper 3 levels of the neck to see if it is a contributing factor in their headache and migraine pain.

To book an appointment call 0423 071 971 today.