Are you constantly dealing with chronic headaches? Simple things can trigger headaches, like a small dietary change or lack of sleep. But chronic headaches are usually a sign that something isn’t right.
Back and neck injuries are normally associated with headaches; patients often report that they experience headaches even after recovering from a back injury. Dr. Hui Kang, and his team at Houston Pain Specialists are here to explain how back or neck injuries can cause headaches.
The connection between your spine and headaches
Your spine runs from the bottom of your brainstem down to your pelvic area. Injuries to your spine can largely impact the surrounding areas because of the spinal nerves.
Your cervical spine, or neck, is the section just under your brainstem. It’s made up of a group of nerves that form the cervical plexus. If a headache is caused by a spinal injury, it’s known as a cervicogenic headache.
What is a cervicogenic headache?
Unlike a migraine, a cervicogenic headache doesn’t originate in the brain. These headaches start in a different part of your body, usually the neck or back. Symptoms include:
- Stiff neck
- Throbbing pain
- Headache that results from moving your neck
- Isolated pain (only in one part of your head)
- Pain above or under your eyes
There are a few health conditions that can cause these headaches. Whiplash, for example, is damage to the tendons and muscles in your neck. It happens when your neck is jerked suddenly and violently, and your neck can swell and compress cervical nerves.
Cervical headaches are often confused with migraines. Dr. Kang can determine whether you’re experiencing migraines or cervicogenic headaches.
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.
A pinched nerve in your neck
A pinched neck nerve, or cervical radiculopathy, can cause intense headaches. A few problems can cause a pinched neck nerve, such as osteoarthritis and degenerative diseases.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. It causes the joint cartilage to wear down and puts a lot of pressure on your spinal nerves. This can result in excessive swelling and may cause chronic headaches.
Degenerative disc disease
Spinal osteoarthritis can cause bone spurs as the cartilage breaks down in the discs that separate your vertebrae. Bone spurs can irritate the cervical nerves. The irritation can produce headaches and pain in your neck.
Treat your chronic headaches
If you’re constantly battling chronic headaches, seek help from Dr. Kang. He’s board-certified in pain management and would like to help you treat your chronic headache pain. To learn more, request an appointment with Dr. Kang online, or call our Houston, Texas, office.