Migraine and neck pain are two terms that always confuse a person whether migraine causes neck pain or neck pain causes the migraine. Some studies and research have shown that neck pain is a symptom of migraine and it is not a triggering factor for migraine. People with chronic migraine usually experience neck pain whenever they have a migraine attack. Migraine has many other symptoms. The combination of neck pain and migraine affects the quality of life of a person by decreasing their physical activities and their well-being. In some cases, neck pain may be a signal that a migraine may start and this pattern is noticed in adults and children.
How Can a Person Identify if Their Neck Pain Is Due to a Migraine?
If a person's neck pain is due to a migraine they may notice a pattern, whenever they experience a migraine attack that is especially the timings of the symptoms. In most cases, neck pain begins when the other symptoms of migraine begin such as head pain, dizziness, sensitivity to sound and light, nausea, and vomiting.
Features of migraine with neck pain include the following:
- If the neck pain is due to a migraine, it always occurs only when the migraine attack happens. However, the person may also have frequent neck pain which may get worsen with the migraine attack.
- Migraine with neck pain appears as an aching sensation, soreness, and tenderness at the upper shoulders and base of the neck.
- Migraine is a pain on one side of the head, likewise, the neck pain due to a migraine also appears on one side. In some persons, neck pain may appear on both sides.
- Neck pain associated with migraine is usually dull aching pain and gets worse in certain positions. This neck pain does not cause any weakness, numbness, or other sensory changes in the neck.
- This type of migraine associated with neck pain does not cause any neurological abnormalities.
What Are the Causes of Migraine Neck Pain?
The exact cause of migraine neck pain is unknown. However, some research and studies defined some causes. The causes are:
- Neck pain in migraine may be due to when a migraine affects the trigeminocervical complex of the brain, which is a part of the brain that has pain nerves of the face and upper neck.
- These effects in the trigeminocervical complex may also trigger the nerves and cause musculoskeletal problems in the neck which cause neck pain in migraine.
- Musculoskeletal problems may be caused by bad posture and joint diseases.
- Bad posture refers to the way the person holds their walking posture, standing posture, and sleeping posture. Bad posture causes neck pain which may also trigger the tension headache.
- Persons with joint diseases of the neck usually suffer from neck pain that may radiate to the head and cause migraine.
What Are the Symptoms of Migraine Associated With Neck Pain?
Some studies have shown that neck pain is the common symptom of migraine then nausea. The person with a migraine associated with neck pain may experience:
- Pain on one side of the head.
- Headache behind the eyes.
- Tightness and stiffness of the neck.
- Worsening of headache when pressure is applied to certain areas of the neck.
- Pain may spread from the back of the neck to the head up to the front.
- There will be a reduction in the movement of the neck.
Neck pain associated with migraine headaches feels dull, tender, or achy pain. The pain will not be sharp and severe. The person should not experience sensory changes such as numbness, weakness, or tingling in the neck associated with migraine headaches. These sensory changes are often associated with other neck problems such as pinched nerves.
As the above-mentioned symptoms coincide with the symptoms of neck pain syndrome, people usually misdiagnose that they have neck pain problems but the main cause for the neck pain would be a migraine attack.
How to Diagnose the Neck Pain Associated With Migraine?
- Neck pain has many causes, so physicians evaluate the medical history and physical examination.
- Patients with neck pain must evaluate the duration, frequency, and severity of the pain before reaching the doctor, to treat the cause of the pain accurately.
- The patient should evaluate the pattern of pain when the neck pain is associated with migraine, which helps the doctor to make a proper treatment plan.
- The healthcare providers may also check for tenderness, stiffness or tightness, or any other injury to the neck muscles. They also perform eye examinations.
- If the medical history suggests that the neck pain is associated with migraine and the physical examination does not suggest that, then the neck pain is not a separate problem it is a symptom of migraine.
- People may experience stiff necks during the episodes. Doctors may suggest some imaging test for the diagnosis which includes cervical spine imaging, electromyography, or nerve conduction studies. They also suggest blood tests for identifying if there is any inflammation in the neck.
What Are the Treatments for Migraine Neck Pain?
- The medications for the treatment of migraine will reduce the neck pain associated with migraine.
- Patients suffering from neck pain associated with migraine headaches can take over the counter medications such as Tylenol, paracetamol, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). They can also take anti-nausea drugs and migraine-specific medications like gepants, triptans, and diptans.
- Neck pain associated with migraine can also be relieved by some home remedies such as yoga, acupressure, acupuncture, and avoiding eating foods that trigger migraine.
- The treatment also includes physical therapy, exercises, cold packs, stretching exercises, and heating pads.
- The pain can also be relieved by massaging the head and neck using oils like lavender oil and peppermint oil.
- The migraine and neck pain can get better if the person adds more magnesium-rich foods to their diet.
How to Prevent a Person From Migraine and Neck Pain?
- The person should avoid some of the foods that trigger the migraine headache such as chocolates, citrus fruits, processed meats, etc.
- The person should avoid bright light and loud sounds and also strong smells.
- Migraines may get worse in patients who consume alcohol. They also get worse in weather changes and electromagnetic fields.
Neck pain is a symptom of a migraine. Neck pain can be relieved by identifying the accurate cause of the pain. Healthcare providers help to find the cause of the neck pain whether it is due to migraine or not. Reaching out to the doctor will help the patient get the correct treatment.