A Surprising Reason For Your Persistent Headache

Headaches can be a pain, literally and figuratively. Whether you get the occasional stress headache, the monthly hormonal headache, or the dreaded migraine, a headache can be a surefire way to ruin your day. While there are some OTC pain relievers, prescription drugs, and even therapeutic treatments to ease headache discomfort, sometimes these are not effective at treating your headache — and there may be a good explanation why.

Chronic headaches can be caused by more than just eye strain or sinus inflammation — in some cases, these painful headaches stem from the neck (cervical spine), making a diagnosis a bit more complicated. According to Healthline, these migraine-mimicking headaches, called cervicogenic headaches, are actually from a referred pain occurring in the nerves, bones, or muscles in your neck.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, cervicogenic headache is not merely a migraine with neck pain. It's really a secondary headache, a symptom of a medical problem within the neck, such as a fracture or muscle damage. Although caused by a cervical issue, this type of headache is not always accompanied by neck discomfort. If the pain persists, seeing a doctor is crucial as these headaches may also be a result of whiplash, arthritis, or even an infection (via Medical News Today).

Cervicogenic headache support

According to WebMD, your headache may be cervicogenic if it occurs with a neck movement, when you cough or sneeze, if you have a stiff neck, or if the pain is isolated to one area of your head. You can also experience pain in your shoulder or arm. The cervicogenic headache can feel like a migraine, as it can last for hours to days, cause gastrointestinal upset, and can even affect your eyes.  

Explaining your symptoms surrounding your headache to your doctor may prompt further testing, including imaging, which can help determine the cause of the pain. Once properly diagnosed, there are treatments available to manage the pain including OTC and prescription medicines, physical therapy, and in more severe cases, nerve blocks (via Medical News Today). Headaches can be alarming and cause a rift in your daily life, but together, you and your doctor can decide the best course of action to get you relief.