Can Tight Neck Muscles Cause Dizziness Or Headache
Patients can suffering from seemingly unexplainable headaches and dizziness. Sometimes the cause is tight or stiff soft tissue of the neck.
Soft tissue is characterized as muscle, fat, blood vessels and also supporting tissue that are not bones, joints and cartilage.
Can tight neck muscles cause dizziness or a chronic, persistent headache? Yes, they can. However, it is an unlikely for the diagnosis for your dizziness or headache to be solely tight cervical muscles, as the overarching conditions that connect neck stiffness to these symptoms tend to be more complex. Often tight neck muscles are a symptom of a wider condition that could cause dizziness or headache.
These conditionscalled cervicogenic dizziness and cervicogenic headache, respectivelyare rare, as only up to 2.5% of the population have them.
However, among those who seek medical relief from dizziness or headaches, these conditions can be a common diagnosis. Cervicogenic disorders can dramatically reduce ones quality of life, and produce a wide array of symptoms as detailed in this scientific journal.
It must be noted that both of these conditions are significantly more prevalent in patients over 40 years old.
Read below to provide insight as to whether your source of discomfort comes from cervicogenic conditions, or something else.
Neck Pain And Migraine Headache
Migraine headache, or migraine is a common disabling episodic headache characterized by throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head. More than half of the migraine population experience neck pain before and/or during a migraine attack.1–2 While in most cases neck pain in migraine is limited to the upper neck region, sometimes the pain may radiate to the lower neck and/or shoulder.
A migraine is a recurring headache that causes moderate to severe throbbing and pulsating pain on one side of the head. Other symptoms may include nausea and sensitivity to light and/or sound.
Migraine is believed to be caused due to genetically modified hypersensitive neurons in the brain. These neurons are triggered by environmental changes , hormones, food, or smell and in turn trigger adjacent neurons to induce pain pathways and cause migraine symptoms.
What Is Cervical Spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis is also called cervical osteoarthritis. It is a condition involving changes to the bones, discs, and joints of the neck. These changes are caused by the normal wear-and-tear of aging. With age, the discs of the cervical spine gradually break down, lose fluid, and become stiffer. Cervical spondylosis usually occurs in middle-aged and elderly people.
As a result of the degeneration of discs and other cartilage, spurs or abnormal growths called osteophytes may form on the bones in the neck. These abnormal growths can cause narrowing of the interior of the spinal column or in the openings where spinal nerves exit, a related condition called cervical spinal stenosis.
Cervical spondylosis most often causes neck pain and stiffness. Although cervical spondylosis is rarely progressive, corrective surgery can be helpful in severe cases.
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What You Need To Know About Migraines And Neck Pain
Migraines are much more than headaches. These episodes are characterized by strong pulsating or thumping discomfort, usually experienced in a specific place in the head. The bouts could last between 24 and 72 hours and are preceded by uneasiness, vomiting, and light-headedness.
In most cases, neck pain occurs alongside the migraine.
So, what is the relationship between migraine and neck pain? Does one cause the other, or is one part of the other?
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How Did I Get This
Three common causes of this type of headache are below:
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What Is A Cervicogenic Headache
Cervicogenic headaches¹ begin in the cervical spine, located in the neck. They develop when pain is directed to the head from a particular cause in the neck.
These headaches can sometimes be mistaken for migraine headache symptoms. Cervicogenic headaches are distinct from migraine with neck pain because, unlike migraine , they are secondary headaches.
Cervicogenic headache symptoms are typically side-locked, meaning they develop across one area of the neck, head, and face.
Back Injuries And Headaches
Back injuries are known to affect other parts of the body. Spinal stenosis is a condition that narrows the small foramina, the little openings of the vertebrae. As they narrow, more pressure is put on your nerves. This can lead to a pinched nerve and may result in chronic headaches.
Another common back injury linked to chronic headaches is a dislocated vertebra. If this happens, extra pressure is put on your back and neck muscles, which can result in inflammation.
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Osteoarthritis In The Neck
Osteoarthritis in the neck is the degeneration of joints, vertebrae, and discs in the cervical portion of the spine. With less padding between them, vertebrae may rub against each other. That can cause tiny bone fragments to break off and float in the synovial fluid .
Sometimes this process stimulates the growth of bony projections along the edges called bone spurs, or osteophytes. Since the padding is now thinner, the vertebrae become closer to each other. That leaves less room for the spine nerves that stick out from the spinal cord.
Symptoms of neck osteoarthritis range from none to pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Osteoarthritis in the neck pain tends to worsen after activity. Complications such as loss of coordination can happen if the spinal cord becomes pinched.
Relieve Neck Pain And Headaches With Tennis Ball
You can also use a tennis ball to relieve various types of nerve pain, including headache pain that starts at the back of the neck.
This is what you should do to help alleviate neck pain and headaches quickly:
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Symptoms Of Alternative Diagnoses
That being said, there is a number of other spine and neck conditions that may be causing the dizziness.
If youre feeling any of the following symptoms then chances are youre suffering from a diagnosis similar to, but not necessarily, CGD:
- Nausea and vomiting
If youre experiencing any of these symptoms in addition to dizziness and headaches, seek medical attention immediately.
If You Have Ocular Migraines Read This
Three weeks ago, a 75-year old retired professor came in complaining of a stiff neck and ocular migraines that come 4 or 5 times per week. He went to his regular MD and a neurologist and had a cervical MRI with contrast dye done. They found the obligatory degenerative arthritis in his neck, but nothing that could to them explain the migraines. This has been going on for five years.
He has been under care at the Spinal Wellness Center for 16 days. He is astonished at how he feels taller, can move his neck and head with much more ease, and he has had no eye headaches since the day he began here.
We get these type of results every day because WE ARE LOOKING FOR THINGS THAT OTHER DOCTORS ARE NOT TRAINED TO LOOK FOR. It is not their fault. I am not trained in car mechanics, computer repair, or tumor removal, for example. Do not come to me for the solution to these problems. HOWEVER, if you want a clinician trained for 20 years in how to perceive and correct problems that other doctors dont even know exist, I am your man.
Eventually, every one will know about this work, but until then take advantage of the fact that we are here now, ready and able to help you feel better than you have in years.
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Your Office Setup May Be To Blame
A major injury like a fall or accident isnt the only trigger for these headaches. If your desk or office chair causes you to slouch or strain, you could get a cervicogenic headache.
When you sit at a desk too long, you may have your neck flexed down, Dr. Estemalik says. You might arch your back while youre sitting. This can bring on a cervicogenic headache.
Look into proper ergonomics for your office if you sit at a desk. Focus on keeping your back and neck straight while you sit, says Dr. Estemalik. Make sure youre not bending forward.
When To See A Doctor
Usually, sore necks and headaches are quite literarily a pain in the neck but are usually nothing to worry about. Pinched nerves, tense muscles, and headaches are usually connected with lifestyle choices and can be relieved by home remedies.
However, when should you be concerned about a headache that results from a stiff neck or neck pain?
Doctors advise that you shouldnt ignore severe neck pain and recurring thumping headaches. You should see a doctor for neck pain and headaches in the following circumstances:4, 18
- The pain in your neck or headaches continue after a few weeks of using home remedies.
- The pain from your sore neck causes numbness down one or both arms.
- The neck pain at the base of the skull is the result of a serious injury or trauma.
- You have a stiff neck along with a high fever, severe neck pain, and a headache.
- Moving your head or coughing increases pain in the top or side of your head.
- You have other neurological symptoms like seizures, slurred speech, or blurry vision.
- Your painful headache causes tenderness around your temples.
- You also have a painful red eye with head pain.
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Using Heat And Ice Packs
Applying a heat pack to your neck can help to ease pain. You can use a microwavable wheat bag, a hot-water bottle or a reusable heat pad which you can buy from chemists and sports shops. An ice pack, or even a bag of frozen peas, can also be helpful.
Make sure you wrap heat or ice packs in a towel and dont put them directly onto your neck to avoid burning or irritating your skin. You might want to consider applying a heat pack to your neck before and after exercise to help soothe the muscles.
What Does It Mean If Your Neck Hurts And You Have A Headache
It makes sense that neck pain would be involved in migraine, because of the disease process in the body, says Kumar. The trigeminal nerve complex is involved in most migraines, and the nucleus of the trigeminal nerve is actually located high in the back of the neck, in what we call the c1, c2, and c3 vertebrae, the highest vertebrae in the spine, she says.
The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sensations in the face and for functions like chewing and biting.
In migraine, those areas get sensitized the muscles in the neck can become tense and tight, she says.
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How A Neck Problem Can Cause Cervicogenic Headache
In the upper cervical spine region, the trigeminocervical nucleus is an area of convergence of sensory nerve fibers originating from both the trigeminal nerve and the upper spinal nerves. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for pain sensation in the face including the top of the head, forehead, eye, and temple area. When a pain sensation from a cause of CGH is sensed by the upper spinal nerves, it gets transferred to the trigeminal nerve fibers in the trigeminocervical nucleus. This results in pain being felt in different regions of the head.
Several factors can transmit pain from the neck to the head, such as:
- An injury to the atlanto-occipital joint
- Injury to a component of the cervical spine, such as a vertebra, facet joint, or disc
- Cervical radiculopathy resulting from pinched nerve in the upper spinal region
- Injury to neck muscles
The Link Between Migraine And Neck Pain
We know a link exists between migraine and neck pain. There are pain pathways and routes that can explain the relationship between the two.
Various anatomical components in the head and neck react to pain. These pain mechanisms differ based on the parts affected. According to recent data, migraines are caused by irregular cellular behavior and sensory neurons in the brain and nervous system, particularly the trigeminal nerve branches.
The trigeminal nerve regulates facial feelings and muscular actions, including biting and chewing. It is also strongly implicated in the majority of migraine headaches.
When irregular electrical activity spreads across the brain, the trigeminal nerve transmits pain impulses and releases chemicals that cause inflammation in nearby blood vessels. This reaction causes the classic migraine symptoms. The trigeminal nerves core is located in the uppermost vertebrae of your cervical spine or neck.
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Headaches Caused By Rheumatoid Arthritis
Since rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis, most of the pain associated with RA comes from inflammation between the joints. If your RA targets the vertebrae in your neck, it can create pressure on one of the nerves, resulting in regular headaches.
The RA could also restrict blood supply to your brain that might trigger a headache. Treatment for either of those issues will be similar.
What Is Cervicogenic Headache
To better understand this research, its helpful to know more about a type of headache that involves neck and head pain called cervicogenic headache. This type of headache starts in the cervical spine . This means head pain arises from problems in the structures of the neck, including the bones, disks and nerves. Its these areas that cause the pain that goes from the neck to the head. Though some mistake it as migraine, cervicogenic headache is something different.
Cervicogenic headache causes pain that affects one side of the head. Occipital neuralgia, which causes pain due to irritation of the occipital nerve, may also cause one-sided head pain, and sometimes these conditions occur together.
The occipital nerve is located in the back of the head and is connected to the cervical spine. The greater occipital nerve runs up the back of the head, and the lesser occipital nerve runs towards the ear.
Cervicogenic headache often involves a reduced range of motion of the neck. As a result, the headache is made a lot worse through certain movements. As people get older, cervicogenic headache becomes more common because we experience changes in the cervical spine with age. Some people may have arthritis in their cervical spine or other neck problems that cause irritation of the occipital nerve.
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What Are The Other Possible Diagnoses
Cervicogenic headaches may resemble occipital neuralgia, which is a condition that causes localised pain and neurological abnormalities in the distribution of the occipital nerves at the back of the head.
Migraines may also be confused with cervicogenic headaches. An opinion from a neurologist is frequently sought to be more certain of the diagnosis.
Spondyloarthritis In The Neck
Other types of neck arthritis include psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, which are both considered a type of arthritis called spondyloarthritis. Its an umbrella term for inflammatory diseases that involve both the joints and entheses, the places where ligaments and tendons attach to the bones.
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis often accompanied by psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease. For some people who have psoriatic arthritis, the condition involves the spine, which impacts the neck. Pain happens when inflammation strikes the joints between the vertebrae. This pain can occur on just one side of the body, the neck, and the lower and upper back. Read more about psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that strikes the bones in your spine and pelvis as well as peripheral joints. Early signs and symptoms might include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after inactivity. Fatigue and neck pain are common. AS symptoms might worsen, improve, or stop at irregular intervals.
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Can Neck Conditions Cause Headaches Or Migraines
Given the strong correlation between neck pain and migraines, it is worth considering neck pain treatments in conjunction with your efforts to mitigate migraine attacks. You can achieve both of these objectives simultaneously through comprehensive, multi-disciplinary neck pain and migraine treatment.
Tightness in the muscles of the shoulders and neck can often lead to headaches. The tightness stimulates the nerves that travel from the neck to the head. When the nerve impulse begins to fire, the pain can move to the head, where a headache can occur. This type of disorder, a cervicogenic headache, is called that because it stems from the cervical spine .
Migraine attacks arising from neck pain can also occur, although they are not as common, as noted by Dr. David Salisbury, DO. The exact processes through which a migraine arises in the head are not yet completely evident. However, the mainstream neurological understanding is that a blend of changes occur within the head’s blood vessels and nerves. Neck tightness could lead to a migraine in exactly the same manner as a cervicogenic headache: it could stimulate the nerves that go to the head, but a migraine could arise instead a likelier scenario in someone who experiences regular migraine attacks.