by Alan Jordan
Many patients who are suffering with neck pain will also experience headache. Female patients are four times as likely to experience headache in conjunction with neck pain.
Headache may result from referred pain from the bony structures and soft tissues of the neck.
According to the International Headache Classification, headaches due to neck disorders are classified as secondary headaches as opposed to migraine, tension-type headache, cluster headache as so forth, which are termed primary headaches. This is due to the fact that the headache is arising due to a disorder elsewhere. The medical term for neck headache is cervicogenic headache.
Although there is an overlap between the symptoms of different headache types, neck headache resembles tension-type headaches.
The physical findings that differentiate neck headache from other headache types are:
- Patients with neck headache will often demonstrate a reduced range of movement of the neck and/or altered posture.
- The musculature of the neck – particularly just below the cranial junction – will be tender to touch.
- Neck movements, primarily with backward bending and rotation may initiate a headache.
- The muscles of the upper shoulder are often tender to touch as well.
Treatment of Neck Headache
Comprehensive treatment of neck headache usually involves both medication as well as physical treatment, including spinal manipulation followed by exercise. Physical treatment has been shown to be effective in the treatment of neck headache in patients irrespective of age. Medication such as muscle relaxants, analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs are often helpful, particularly if prescribed in conjunction with physical treatments. In some instances, psychological and behavioural treatment may be required.
At the Broadgate Spine & Joint Clinic, we have a designated headache team, which is led by a Consultant Neurologist who will carry out the initial examination and determine the most appropriate treatment. Our team includes specialists in all types of physical treatments as well as medical specialists.