The Link Between Neck Pain and Headaches

Headaches and neck pain often seem to chase each other. Your neck hurts, and you have a headache. Are these related? Is your neck pain causing your headache? Or is it your headache causing problems in your neck? 

There’s no easy answer since it could be either of these, or it might also be two separate issues. As neck and spine specialists, the doctors at 360 Orthopedics regularly diagnose and treat headache conditions accompanied by neck pain. We’re up-to-date with the connections, so let’s take a moment to explain the potential reasons behind the link between neck pain and headache. 

Cervicogenic headaches

When a headache originates in the neck with symptoms in the head, it’s called a cervicogenic headache. It’s a secondary headache, meaning that there’s an underlying cause of which the headache is a symptom. 

The original condition could be an injury like whiplash or bone fracture, arthritis, infection, tumors, or sometimes severely high blood pressure. While the symptoms may seem similar to cluster and migraine headaches, those are primary headaches. The headache is the condition in those cases. 

Cervicogenic headaches usually affect one side of the head, starting in the neck, moving up the back of the head and over to the front. You might also have pain around your eyes or radiating pain down your shoulder and arm. Some neck movements may cause head pain. 

Posture and physical causes

Sitting or standing for long periods of time can invite unbalanced postures. These, in turn, lead to uneven loads on the spine. Typically, problems from imbalance appear in the lower lumbar spine or the cervical spine, the section that defines your neck. 

Using digital devices like smartphones and tablets often requires a neck-forward posture to view the screen. These stresses create tension in the neck's soft tissues, which in turn serves as a headache trigger. 


Stress starts in the mind. Everyone has their own response to stressful situations, and the physical changes to your body during stress can include tension as muscles tighten, ready to respond to a fight-or-flight situation. 

Chronic stress, perhaps from a high-strain job, burdens your body long-term. If this includes tension in the neck and shoulders, it can trigger tension headaches just as easily as bad posture.

Headache response

A headache may originate in the head. This could then elevate your stress level or increase the tension you feel. In return, your neck and shoulders start to tense, creating their own contribution to your pain load. 

You can see that it’s not easy to determine where your pain originates or what’s causing it. The good news is we can help with both diagnosis and treatment. 

Contact the nearest office of 360 Orthopedics when headaches become a distraction in your life. You can book an appointment by phone or online. Schedule your visit today.

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