Can Neck Pain Cause Headaches – A Sign of Something Serious?

Since your interest has brought you to this content, it’ll be great to know something new about neck pain. Neck pain is a painful health condition that can affect our lifestyle. You should also know Is Neck Pain a Sign of a Heart Attack. Neck pain has a relatively connected with the headache. This type of problem is also known as Cervicogenic headache. Can neck pain cause headaches – the answer is explained here in this article.

Can Neck Pain Cause Headaches?

Neck Pain – The Statistics

Neck pain has an annual prevalence rate exceeding 30% among adults in the US; nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of chronic neck pain or frequent occurrences. Among adults, 20% to 70% will experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities during their lifetime. Source

Neck pain has an annual prevalence rate exceeding 30% among adults in the US; nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of chronic neck pain or frequent occurrences. Source
Among adults, 20% to 70% will experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities during their lifetime.

About 10% of neck pain is associated with illnesses such as polymyalgia rheumatica, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, tumors, and infections.

Among adults, 20% to 70% will experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities during their lifetime

What is the severe neck pain and headache base of the skull?

Tension headaches can have different reasons. But the most common cause starts from the neck. It’s the result of muscle tension and trigger points. The skull base has a group of muscles; the suboccipital muscles can cause a headache. These muscles control the subtle movements between your skull and the first and second vertebrae in your neck. Eye strain, new eyewear, the poor environment in your computer room, teeth grinding, trauma, etc. tense and tender those suboccipital muscles. You may feel like a band wrapping around your head causing great pain rising from suboccipital muscles.

So, neck pain can cause headaches.

Neck pain and headaches in the back of the head

In the medical language, this term is known as Occipital Neuralgia. It’s a health condition that brings immense pain in the neck and causes a headache. If there is any inflammation or injury in the occipital nerves, then this type of issue will happen. This disease can make you feel sharp, jabbing or electric shock in the neck as well as the back of the head. Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia are like aching, burning, pain on both or one side of the skull, eye pain etc.

Discover the best pillows for neck painThe 9 Best Pillow for Neck Pain 

Pain in the back of the head at the base of skull and neck

Headache and neck pain, both are unwelcoming to us. Many ways can cause pain in the back of the head at base of the skull and neck. Arthritis, poor posture, herniated disks, Occipital Neuralgia, etc. are the major causes of these pain. You may feel pain in your eyes. Even you may be sensitive to look at bright things or the light. When you have pain in the base of the skull, you won’t be able to move your head freely.

Pain in the left side

When you feel pain on the left side of your or the backside, you have possible chances to have migraine issues. Migraine can cause a different problem in your body. Intolerable pain, nausea, vomiting, watering eyes, etc. are the result of symptoms of migraine. However, migraine starts from the left side and gradually moves to other parts of the head and neck.

Pain in the back of the head when lying down

This kind of headache is known as a cluster headache. This type of pain is rare, but the pain is pathetic to bear. This pain starts from the neck or in the back of the head. When you lie down on your bed, this pain gets increased. Cluster headaches can be caused by nausea, jamming nose, light sensitivity, etc.

What is Cervicogenic Headache?

It starts from the neck and slowly spreads throughout the skull or the head. It’s a great example of secondary headaches. Different underlying conditions like injury or infections, neck injury, high bp etc. cause a Cervicogenic headache. Besides this headache, there can arise more types of headaches, such as migraines, cluster headaches.

 This type of headache appears in the neck and back of the head first. Then spreads towards the frontal side of the head. Many people have misconceptions by thinking of Cervicogenic headaches similar to migraines, tension headaches, etc. It’s because all of them can cause neck pain.

Cervicogenic headache symptoms – What are the symptoms of Cervicogenic headache?

Most of the time, people face this headache caused by neck pain and stiffness together. Even some specific neck movements can also help to build this Cervicogenic headache. If you are a victim of this painful health issue, you will feel the progress of the pain from the back to the front of the head. 

Here are some notable symptoms of Cervicogenic headache:

  • Problems while moving the head towards the neck
  • Pain on any side of the face or the head
  • Neck stiffness with severe or mild pain
  • Pain in the periphery of the eyes
  • Pain on any side of the neck, arm or the shoulder
  • Pain while moving the neck
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Nausea and blurred vision

Can Cervicogenic headaches be cured?

Cervicogenic headaches can be cured with some treatment methods. The nature of the headache is like you may face the headache even after the treatment. The most impressive way is to find the root cause of the headache and treat depending on the source type. Different types of treatment can reduce the pain on the neck which will eventually reduce or remove the Cervicogenic headache. 

How long can a Cervicogenic headache last?

A Cervicogenic headache can make you suffer from short to long duration. Usually, the condition known as Cervicogenic episodes can remain from one hour to one week. Once it’s cured, it may re-appear due to neck pain and other related issues. 

Cervicogenic headache treatment:

When you visit your doctor for the treatment, he or she will apply pressure to different areas of your neck and base of the head. It helps to identify a particular spot that triggering the headache. The doctor will also check your neck movement to figure out which positioning is creating pain. If you face any pain in these ways, you are having a Carvicogenic headache. 

There are multiple methods available to treat Cervicogenic headache. Below are the standard ways to fulfill the purposes:


Oral over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are useful for reducing the headache. The causes of Cervicogenic headaches usually are inflammation and redundancies with nerves, muscles, tendons, bone joints, etc. OTC works best to reduce pain-causing problems. 

Some common OTC medications are:

  • NSAIDs like Aspirin or ibuprofen (Motrin)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Corticosteroid

Physical therapy:

Physical therapy strengthens the weak neck muscles. It also helps to increase joint mobility. The therapist may apply different treatments to work on the nerve, muscle pain in your neck. Massage therapy, spinal manipulation via chiropractic care, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, etc. are some popular therapies for Cervicogenic headaches. 

However, the therapist may suggest that you do these things:

  • Ignoring the unnecessary movements of body limbs those cause the pain
  • Applying ice or heat massage for 10-15 minutes, a couple of times a day
  • Using neck brace
  • Maintaining good posture while sitting, standing even when you are driving

Radiofrequency ablation:

Radiofrequency ablation is useful for Cervicogenic headaches. In this method, radio waves are used to heat a needle tip. The doctor applies the needle to the pain-causing nerve. Needle heat prohibits the nerve from causing more pain by interrupting the nerve’s pain signal to the brain.

Nerve blocks:

The doctor uses an injection of pain-numbing medicine direct to the nerves and joints in your neck and head. It will give you relief from the neck pain and also help you to identify the pain source.


It’s a surgery to place electrodes on the back of your head or neck. The surgeon connects a pulse generator with a thin wire. Then the electrodes stimulate the occipital nerve. These electrodes travel from the top of the spinal cord to your head. Neuromodulation is a secondary way to treat Cervicogenic headaches. 

Home remedies:

Sustained natural apophyseal glide or SNAG is a method to use a towel to manipulate the painful areas. You can learn how to do SNAG at home from the therapist. There are some other home exercises and alternative treatments available such as deep breathing, yoga, relaxation regimes, etc. 

Neck headache relief

To get immediate relief from neck and headache pain, you may follow these procedures:

  • Reduce stress: You can stay in a dark, quiet room to relax the tense muscles. Close the eyelids, keep the thoughts out of your brain and inhale, exhale air slowly through your nose. After a couple of minutes, you will see improvements
  • Drink coffee: Caffeine is a proven ingredient to reduce head and neck pain. Take a mug of coffee to get relief from the pain instantly. 
  • Heat or cold therapy: Massaging ice-cube on the source of neck pain can help you to get relief. However, heat therapy works better than a cold one. Take a hot shower or use towel damp in warm water and apply it on those areas.
  • Apply firm pressure: You can massage the areas such as the forehead, sides of the head, back of the head, neck, and shoulder to ease the pain. Put firm pressure to make the massage efficiently. 
  • Sleep well: Try to sleep when you are facing neck and headaches. Do not oversleep or post your posture in the wrong way while sleeping. It may worsen the pain. Find the correct pillow to have a sound sleep. 
  • Visit the therapist: Call the therapist to assist you in reducing the pain. He will give you different suggestions or therapies to fight against pain. 

Neck headache treatment

As you have already known the treatment of Cervicogenic headache, you are already familiar with neck headache treatment partially. However, your doctor may suggest you any of these medications:

  • Over-the-counter or OTC pain relievers for neck headache treatment. Ibuprofen such as Motrin, Advil, acetaminophen such as Tylenol, etc. are included in the OTC pain relievers list.
  • Prescribed pain relievers are also suitable for neck headache issues. These medicines are naproxen, such as Naprosyn, Ketorolac tromethamine, such as Toradol, indomethacin such as Indocin, etc. 
  • If you are facing tension headaches alongside the migraines, you can have Triptans. Usually, these medicines are used to cure migraines. Sumatriptan like Imitrex, is mostly used as Triptans for neck headache treatment. 

Besides these medicines, a doctor may prescribe you some medications to prevent neck and head pain. Tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants, blood pressure medications, etc. are examples of preventive medicines. 

Massaging the sources of neck headache can also be fruitful. But you should follow the standard ways to rub on those areas. It would help if you were gentle in the regions. 

If you are having a pinched nerve in your neck, the doctor may recommend these: cervical collar, physical therapy, oral medications, steroid injections, etc.

What helps neck pain and headaches?

If you don’t wish to take medicines, you can use basic methods to reduce the pain. These methods won’t prevent neck pain and headaches. But yes, you will feel better when these methods lessen the dimension of the pain. These are:

  • Massaging on the spots with firm pressure
  • Having a hot shower
  • Using an ice pack or ice cubes to massage
  • Maintaining a good posture while moving, sitting or standing
  • Avoiding movements that cause the pain
  • Managing a prepared, scheduled time for sleeping
  • Choosing the right pillows 
  • Maintaining a good position when you are lying on a bed
  • Keeping up a regular journal
  • Acupuncture or dry needling
  • Relaxing tension muscles
  • Having an up-to-date connection with a therapist

Frequently asked questions:

  • Can neck pain be a sign of something serious?
  • Ans: Neck pain can be a sign that you are going to face more severe health problems. It may also create obstacles in your regular lifestyle. Some doctors have found a relation between cancer and neck pain. 
  • What helps neck pain from headaches?
  • Ans: Maintain good posture, have a good sleep, massage the sources of pain, take therapy or acupuncture, etc.  
  • What are the symptoms of a Cervicogenic headache?
  • Ans: Here are some notable symptoms of Cervicogenic headache:
    • Problems while moving the head towards the neck
    • Pain on any side of the face or the head
    • Neck stiffness with severe or mild pain
    • Pain in the periphery of the eyes
    • Pain on any side of the neck, arm or the shoulder
    • Pain while moving the neck
    • Light and noise sensitivity
    • Nausea and blurred vision
  • Can neck and shoulder pain cause headaches?
  • Ans: Tension types of headaches can be caused by neck and shoulder pain. The tension in tender spots of the muscles on the neck can give birth to a headache. 
  • Why does my neck hurt and give me a headache?
  • Ans: The suboccipital muscles can cause neck hurt. The irregular and imbalanced movements in these muscles can give you a headache.
  • Can a pinched nerve in your neck give you a headache?
  • Ans: Yes. You can have a headache when you have a pinched nerve. 


I hope, this article isn’t dull to have a headache right now. Headache caused by neck and shoulder pain can be painful in the long journeys. People having headache hardly know why or how they are having headaches. This lengthy article includes all the information on causes, symptoms, treatment of neck pain and headache. 

However, you shouldn’t take headache and neck pain lightly. It may create problems in doing regular activities. It would be best if you kept in contact with a therapist for pain-related issues. You can also contact the doctors to identify the sources and type of neck and head pain.

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