headache caused by neck injury

How Can a Headache Be Caused by a Neck Injury?

by | Nov 12, 2018 | General Chiropractic

While headaches may be a common occurrence for some individuals, no two headaches are the exact same. In fact, doctors have identified several different types of headaches with unique causes and treatments. Injuries, such as a head or neck injury, may even cause some headaches. In this blog, we’re taking a closer look into the different types of headaches and learning how neck pain is causing headaches.

A Closer Look at How Neck Injuries Cause Various Types of Headaches

There are numerous forms of headaches, and at some point in your life, you may have experienced one form of headache or another.

In case you were wondering if a neck injury can cause a headache, you are right. Neck injuries are a leading cause of various forms of headaches. Trauma to your neck joint region can result in severe neck pain and headaches. Often, neck-related headaches are mistaken for migraines, yet they are different health problems.

Neck Injuries Versus Headaches

Your neck has three spinal roots situated in the C1, C2, and C3 vertebrae of your spine. These roots share a nucleus with the trigeminal nerve, a fiber that draws messages from your brain to different regions of the face. When your neck is injured, or you get a pinched nerve, these roots do not function correctly and can send deferred pain signals to your brain, which interprets them as a headache.

Some of the most common types of headaches include tension headaches, vertebrogenic headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Below are examples of how different forms of headaches occur:

Tension Headache

Tension headaches emanate from the suboccipital muscles at the head’s base. Suboccipital muscles function to facilitate movement of the skull at the vertebrae in the neck. When your suboccipital muscles become strained, they can result in a stiff neck and headache.

These muscles can become tense when you wear new glasses, strain to view distant objects, or have poor postures. They can also be affected when you suffer a whiplash injury from a car accident or grind your teeth. Strained suboccipital muscles may compress the nerves on the base of your skull, which can result in head pain.

Vertebrogenic Headaches

Vertebrogenic headaches, also known as cervicogenic headaches, are a type of headache that originates from the structures in the neck or cervical spine. They are caused by abnormalities or dysfunction in the cervical spine or its associated structures.

A previous neck injury, such as whiplash from a car accident, sports injury, or fall, can lead to cervicogenic headaches. The trauma can cause misalignment or damage to the vertebrae, joints, ligaments, or muscles in the neck, resulting in referred pain to the head.

Maintaining poor posture over an extended period can strain the muscles and joints in the neck, leading to cervicogenic headaches. Activities such as slouching, hunching over a computer, or holding the neck in an awkward position can develop these headaches.


Unlike headaches, which is a more general term to use when your head hurts, migraines describe a specific type of throbbing headache. Both neck pain and migraines can have common triggers. For example, poor posture, stress, muscle tension, and certain physical activities can contribute to both neck pain and migraines. In these cases, the triggers may exacerbate both conditions simultaneously. If you’re unsure which you have, the symptoms of migraines are listed below:

  • Severe throbbing or pulsating pain typically on the side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and some smells
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seeing flashes of light

Migraines and stiff necks can sometimes be connected, although the relationship between the two can vary from person to person. If you’re experiencing neck pain, It is important to note that not all migraines are directly caused by neck pain, and not all individuals with neck pain will experience migraines. However, there are certain scenarios where neck pain and migraines may be interconnected.

Some migraines are thought to have a cervicogenic origin, meaning that they are triggered or influenced by issues in the neck or cervical spine. When you’re experiencing neck pain at the base of your skull, a migraine can sometimes accompany the pain or come after. The exact mechanisms behind cervicogenic migraines are not fully understood, but it is believed that irritation of the nerves in the neck can lead to pain signals being transmitted to the head, resulting in a migraine.

How Do Chiropractors Treat Headaches?

When suffering from neck and head pain, your first instinct may be to quickly grab a bottle of Tylenol or some other pain reliever. While this might work as a quick fix to relieve pain, it fails to actually address the source of your headache. If you’re experiencing headaches caused by neck pain, you should consider visiting an experienced chiropractor.

Chiropractic treatments have been proven to help patients experiencing headaches or migraines. Spinal manipulation is one of the most common techniques practiced by licensed chiropractors and can be effective at alleviating headache symptoms caused by neck issues.

With this common chiropractic adjustment, your chiropractor will carefully adjust the alignment of your spine. This works to alleviate the stress on your nervous system by aligning your spine correctly. Improved spinal function and positioning reduce the stress placed on your head and neck, which can cause headaches. Chiropractic care can also treat neck injuries that may be causing your headaches.

Conclusion – Treating Headaches Caused by Neck Pain

A problem in your neck could initiate a chain of activities, which could result in severe headaches. If you are having headaches, you need to see a professional immediately. Denver Integrated Spine Center is a leading full-service chiropractic care serving patients in the greater Denver metro area. Our entire team is dedicated to your healthcare needs and recovery, and we’ll help you every step of the way. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, come see how our neck pain chiropractor in Denver can help.

Contact us today or call us at (303) 758-900 to schedule your initial consultation. Our chiropractic center specializes in personalized care using advanced treatment techniques to help you recover from injury, relieve pain, and get you back to the pain-free life you love.

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