Can A Pinched Nerve Cause Headaches?

If you've ever had a pinched nerve, it was probably a literal pain in the neck, back, arm, or leg. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 85 out of 100,000 adults in the United States have had a pinched nerve. Those who are 50 and older are most likely to have a pinched nerve due to degenerative changes that happen in the body as we age.

A pinched nerve can happen in several areas throughout the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. When muscle, tendon, bones, ligaments, or cartilage put excessive pressure on a nerve, it can cause painful numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness. When a pinched nerve is relieved, the pain usually subsides, and normal function returns. However, if the pressure is not relieved, it can lead to permanent nerve damage and chronic pain. Most of us wouldn't think that a pinched nerve could affect how our head feels. However, a pinched nerve could be the cause of your headache.

Cervical radiculopathy can cause cervicogenic headaches

According to Verywell Health, when the nerves that travel from the neck into your upper body become pinched, it is called cervical radiculopathy. Along with the pinched nerves, muscle spasms may occur in the upper back, neck, or shoulders. The aches and pains from these parts of the body can radiate up to the base of the skull and forehead, causing a headache. This type of headache is called a cervicogenic headache.

As Verywell Health explains, usually, a cervicogenic headache occurs on the same side of the body as the pinched nerve. Although a cervicogenic headache can feel like a migraine, the pain is coming from the pinched nerve in your neck. Cervicogenic headaches can be triggered by performing normal ranges of motion such as looking over your shoulder, looking up at the ceiling, or looking down at your phone. Holding your head in one position for too long can cause the muscles in your neck and shoulders to spasm and trigger a cervicogenic headache.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms from a pinched nerve may go away in about four to six weeks without treatment. However, there are cases where treatments such as injections, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and surgery are needed for relief.