Neck Pain with Migraine

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


Neck pain is one of the most common symptoms in migraine sufferers. Migraine sufferers are often advised to avoid neck pain triggers such as head bending, looking down, and turning the head from side to side.

In some cases, people with neck pain may also be experiencing an attack of migraine without a headache, which is called a “silent migraine.”

Migraine is a common disorder that affects an estimated 20% of the population. Migraine is characterized by recurrent, usually unilateral headaches that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances.

The headaches can last from several hours up to 72 hours, with a maximum frequency of three attacks per week.

People who experience migraines may also experience other symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Visual disturbances

How Do Migraines and Neck Pain Differ from One Another?

Migraines are a type of headache that is characterized by intense throbbing pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light.

There are many different types of migraines and their intensity varies from person to person. Some people experience migraine headaches once in a while, whereas others have them more often.

Migraine can be caused by a number of factors, and it is not clear what causes most cases.

The dilatation of the blood vessels causes the most headaches.

But the neck pain results from muscular spasms in the neck. The neck tries to keep the head in a steady position by contracting muscles. This strain will cause neck pain.

The International Headache Society has classified migraine into four stages: prodrome, aura, headache, and postdrome.

Prodrome Stage

The patient is extremely tired, yawning, nauseated, and sensitive to smell and light.

The prodrome stage may last from hours to days before the headache phase begins and can occur with or without any other symptoms of a migraine.

The prodrome may include mood changes such as depression or anxiety as well as physical symptoms like constipation or diarrhea.

This stage does not cause pain.


The aura stage is the second stage of a migraine. The symptoms can be anything from bright lights to tingling sensations.

Typically, the aura stage is a warning sign that something bad is about to happen. The length of an aura varies between people, but it usually lasts for less than 60 minutes.

The duration of an aura can vary from person to person, but it typically lasts for less than 60 minutes. The aura or warning signs of an attack will inform you that an attack is coming. The aura may be visual, sensory, or motor.


This is where the pain begins. Any movement of the head will aggravate the pain.

It will increase in its intensity with time. The headache will accompany nausea, vomiting, and difficulty in seeing light or sound.


A post-drome migraine is a migraine that occurs after the headache phase. typically referred to as “migraine hangover. Though the pain is not apparent, nausea, drowsiness, and fatigue may exist.

Does Migraine Start as Neck Pain?

Neck pain is a common and important symptom of migraine.

Migraines are often triggered by stress, anxiety, depression, bright lights, and loud noises.

According to a study conducted among more than 100 migraine sufferers, neck pain is not a migraine trigger, according to the International Headache Foundation.

Cervicogenic Headache vs. Migraine

Cervicogenic headaches are a type of headache that is caused by problems in the neck.

The most common symptoms of cervicogenic headaches include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers
  • Headache pain that worsens with neck movement and is relieved by rest or by applying pressure to the back of the neck.
  • Pain on one side of the head, which may radiate to other parts of the head and face
  • The major difference with migraine is that it doesn’t accompany nausea, vomiting, or aura.

Causes of Cervicogenic Headache

  • Vertebral fracture
  • Nerve strain
  • Infection
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Muscle strain
  • Tumor

Tension Headache vs. Migraine Neck Pain There are many types of headaches that are not migraines.

One type is a tension headache, which is a condition that causes pain in the head, neck, and shoulders. A tension-type headache can be caused by stress or muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders.

Migraine neck pain is accompanied by a throbbing, pulsating headache. But in tension-type headaches, it is felt as a dull ache.

Other causes of tension headaches are as follows:

  • Muscle strain on scalp and neck
  • Mental instability: stress, depression, anxiety

Head trauma

  • Increased screen time with the wrong posture on desk, computer, or smartphone
  • Alcohol and tobacco use
  • Caffeine abuse (too much or too little)
  • Sinusitis
  • Jaw clenching
  • Teeth grinding and jaw clench (frequent mastication)
  • Fatigue


Sleep and Posture: How Does It Affect Migraine Neck Pain?

Migraine disorder can be triggered by many factors, such as sleep deprivation and changes in posture too.

Sleep and posture are directly related to neck pain.


In migraine, too much sleep and lack of sleep are both triggering factors.

Better sleeping schedules will improve brain refreshing abilities.

Staring at the neck muscle

To avoid strain, the neck should be kept straight, not hunched over. Stretching exercises and hydration can both help to reduce neck strain and spasms of muscles in any type of headache.

Sleeping with an especially designed pillow in a comfortable, dark room will energize you, avoiding neck strain or migraine.

Treatment for Neck Pain in Migraines

If you’re struggling with migraines, it can feel like a never-ending battle. You want to get rid of the pain, but the headaches are just too bad.

But there are things you can do to help yourself! Here’s what we recommend:

The most common treatments for neck pain is non-surgical ones like rest, ice, injections, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Surgical treatment is only recommended when the patient has an underlying cause such as a herniated disc or arthritis in the cervical spine.

Over-the-counter Medications

Painkillers: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), Excedrin.

Preventive medications: antidepressants and anticonvulsants.

Prescription medications: triptans, metoclopramide, dihydroergotamine.


A physical therapist can provide a neck massage in order to relieve muscular strain.

Heat therapy and nerve stimulation can also cause relief from neck pain.


Migraine hot and cold compression can help to relieve the pain of migraines.

The method involves placing ice packs on the back of your neck and temples and then placing a cold compress on top of them. You can do this for five minutes at a time, three times a day.

It’s important to be careful when applying this treatment since it can be dangerous if you apply too much pressure or leave your head in the cold for too long.

If you are uncomfortable with this treatment, seek out professional help instead.

Migraine hot or cold compression is a technique that involves applying ice to the forehead and neck.

The theory behind this technique is that applying cold to the head can reduce blood flow and slow down brain activity. It is believed that this will help relieve some of the symptoms of migraines, including nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and general discomfort.

The method for applying ice is simple; you simply place a bag of ice on your head for about 15 minutes.

Nerve blocks and Injections

If you are experiencing chronic neck pains with migraines some muscle relaxants or painkillers can use as pain relievers.

Local Injection

Sometimes steroids or anesthetic drugs are injected to reduce pain and inflammation. These are injected at the sites of pain or muscle spasms

Occipital Nerve Block

This occipital nerve block is beneficial in chronic migraine and neck pains. A longer-acting anesthetic with a steroid is injected into the site of the occipital nerve. This injection has to be repeated at monthly intervals.

Botox Injections

Botox is used for refractory migraine attacks. It helps to reduce pain and recurring attacks. This injection has to be repeated every 10 -12 weeks.

When to See the Doctor

Migraine neck pain is a type of headache that starts in the neck and radiates to the head.

It can be caused by a number of factors, including stress, poor posture, muscle tension, or a lack of sleep. Neck pain can be a sinister sign that indicates a pathology.

There are some signs that suggest when you should see your doctor for migraine neck pain. These include:

  • A change in the location or intensity of your headache when you change positions
  • A stiff neck
  • Dizziness
  • Appear with fever
  • Headache appears as a “thunderclap”
  • associated with one-sided weakness of the body.

TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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