Migraine is a complex condition characterized by pulsating—oftentimes debilitating—episodic, and unilateral headaches (occurring only on one side of the head). Migraines have various triggers for different people.
More than half of the population of migraine patients report experiencing neck pain prior to a migraine episode. Most cases of neck pain associated with migraines occur only in the upper neck region. However, there are instances when the pain may radiate down the lower neck or even the shoulder.
The relationship between migraine and neck pain has long piqued the interest of experts. A high prevalence of neck pain among migraine patients has sparked a scientific debate over whether neck pain is a symptom or a cause of migraines. Demystifying the link between the two conditions may also help determine the answer to the question as to whether neck pain treatment can relieve migraines. Let’s delve deeper.
The Relationship Between Neck Pain and Migraine
There have been several theories that have sought to explicate the relationship between neck pain and migraines. One such theory is based on the study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, aimed at identifying the cause of neck pain and neck tension.
The researchers concluded that neck tensions prior to or during a migraine episode should be considered a symptom of the attack itself—and not of a dysfunction in the trapezius muscle (the large surface muscle that extends from the neck down the midsection of the spine). However, future studies are needed to fully assess if the same conclusion holds true for all neck muscles.
Despite the mounting evidence, there are still enduring challenges in determining the exact link between migraines and neck pain. Nonetheless, there are treatments for neck pain that are applicable to migraines and vice versa.
“Migraine” and “headache” have been widely used interchangeably. While they may be related, it’s worth noting that they are not synonymous. To further clear up the confusion, neck pain is a cause of headache, not migraine; migraine is a cause—and not a symptom—of neck pain. Knowing the nuances of these three conditions is crucial in determining the best course of treatment for each. Consulting a pain specialist is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment for migraine headaches is aimed at mitigating the symptoms and helping prevent future attacks. Common treatment methods include the following:
· Pain Relievers
These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), triptans (drugs that help quiet down overactive pain nerves), ergotamine (drugs that help constrict blood vessels in the head), opiates, and steroids.
· Preventive Medications
These include beta-blockers (drugs that lower blood pressure), tricyclic antidepressants, and higher-strength NSAIDs (Naproxen).
· Alternative Treatments
These include acupuncture, biofeedback, cognitive behavior therapy, and massage therapy.
There are cases when pain specialists administer small doses of ketamine either intravenously or via a nasal spray—in a closely monitored setting—to provide quick pain relief and significantly reduce the severity of migraine auras for up to several weeks.
Neck Pain Treatment
Treatments for neck pain can vary, depending on its underlying cause, but typically include the following:
- Medications (NSAIDs, oral steroids, opioids, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants)
- Physical therapy (with gentle stretching exercises)
- Cold and heat therapy
- Alternative treatments (biofeedback, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and massage therapy)
Migraine/Neck Pain Treatment in Austin, Cedar Park, Marble Falls, TX
At Balcones Pain Consultants, we are well aware of the frustrations stemming from the challenges in diagnosing and treating migraines that often lead to a choice to stop seeing a doctor.
Our board-certified pain specialists leverage their expertise, extensive experience, and compassionate approach to help our patients take full control of their migraine symptoms while reassuring them that they’re never alone in their struggle.
If you have neck pain and want to find out its exact cause, we provide comprehensive evaluations to determine the most appropriate, effective treatment plan for you.
To schedule a consultation with one of our pain specialists, you may call us at (512) 834-4141or fill out this appointment request form. Our appointment scheduler will get in touch with you within 48 hours. We look forward to serving you!