When it comes to pain, there are few coincidences, especially if you suffer from neck or back pain. If you do have orthopedic pain and you get frequent headaches, the latter may not be an isolated incident. In fact, your orthopedic condition may actually be causing your headaches. Here’s how.
A cervicogenic headache occurs when back or neck pain travels to the head. A cervicogenic headache often is misdiagnosed as a migraine because of their similarities but, unlike a migraine, a cervicogenic headache’s cause lies in the spine.
The spine is made up of a series of bones that interlock in such a way that it allows them to move and glide against each other without issue. When an orthopedic condition interferes with the function of the spine, that pain can travel, resulting in headaches. Whether it’s due to injury or disease, the commonality is pain in some part of the spine or neck.
But the irony is, the connection may not be obvious. For example, pain in your lower back can cause a headache, even though they are not in immediate contact with each other. Without proper diagnosis, cervicogenic headaches are treated as isolated events, not as part of orthopedic wellness.
The Orthopedic Connection
If you are experiencing headaches with the following orthopedic condition or injuries, there is a good chance the two are connected:
Spinal injuries, which are often caused by sports injuries or accidents, are common triggers of cervicogenic headaches. The resulting spinal injury may not only cause pain in the back or neck, but also in the head.
Arthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joints. Similar to a spinal injury, arthritis can cause cervicogenic headaches because the pain can travel up the spine or neck and into the head.
Tightness in Neck and Shoulders.
Muscles can tighten anywhere in the body and when they do in the shoulder or neck, it can cause a cascade of effects. For example, did you know a tight muscle can cause other muscles to tighten and spasm, as well? If your neck or shoulder muscle tightens, it can easily cause muscles in the back of your head to do the same and end up causing a cervicogenic headache.
Migraine vs. Cervicogenic Headaches
Finally, let’s talk about migraines. While cervicogenic headaches directly result from orthopedic conditions, migraines do not. It is unclear what exactly causes migraines but doctors believe it could be genetics or environmental “triggers.” Each person’s trigger is different: some may get migraines from insufficient sleep; others suffer from migraines after eating certain foods. Some people’s trigger may actually be neck or back pain. If this is true for you, you really do have migraines, not cervicogenic headaches.
Because migraines and cervicogenic have similar symptoms, it can be tricky to diagnose which exactly you have. However, one of the most profound differences between the two is that cervicogenic headaches most often are accompanied with a stiff or tight neck. Migraines typically do not come with this symptom.
Tarpon Orthopedics specialize in musculoskeletal health. Remember, it’s all connected. If you have an orthopedic condition and/or headaches and want to explore if there is a connection between the two, talk to one of our specialists. Gaining control of your orthopedic issue may help you gain control of your headaches, too. Call 972-596-1059 today to make an appointment with our friendly and caring staff.