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HeadWay, Issue #128 -- Neck Pain and Migraine
March 21, 2015

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In this issue:

Neck Pain and Migraine

Headlines at Headache and Migraine News

Say what?!  Cervical

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Neck Pain and Migraine

The connection between neck pain and headache is nothing new (as a matter of fact, it was the topic of one of the first editions of HeadWay, over a decade ago). But there is a growing awareness that the discussion needs to be taken to a new level.

We commonly talk about migraine symptoms such as headache, visual auras, and nausea. Of course the headache is very common (though not universal). Visual auras are not as common (likely affecting 15-20% of migraine patients). But in 2010 Brazilian researchers suggested that neck pain was actually more common in migraine than nausea.

In the end, the research showed 69% of those with episodic migraine with some disability from nausea, but 92% with some disability from neck pain!

A recent poll at Headache and Migraine News confirmed this - with 85% saying that neck pain was a symptom of migraine for them.

The temptation is to assume that the neck pain is giving people headaches. After all, people are hunched over computers and staring down at smart phones all day - their muscles get tense - and they get a headache. Right?

Yes and no. Many people rarely get headaches, even when they're spending a lot of time in front the the computer. And we now know that even so-called tension headaches are probably not caused by muscle tension (which is why they're now called tension-type headaches).

It's probably safe to assume that some headache attacks are triggered by neck problems. But there's something else going on here. When neck pain comes and goes with a migraine attack, it seems fair to assume that the attack is actually leading to neck pain.

What should I do about it?

Here are some quick ideas to get you thinking:
  1. Keep track of your neck pain and mention it to your doctor. Is the pain temporary? When is it worse? Where is the pain, and when did you first notice it?
  2. Consider treating common neck pain with a warm or cool compress. Try ice first, especially if you think you have a mild injury.
  3. Try to rest your neck - avoid jarring exercise.
  4. Try some slow stretches on a regular basis. Your doctor or specialist can recommend some.
  5. Try massage, or go to a chiropractor you trust. A study from 2012 found that patients were helped more by chiropractic treatment than by medication.
  6. Posture is important, including posture while using your smart phone and your sleep position.
  7. Cervical collars are used in some cases, but be cautious about wearing one for a long period of time. It can be counter-productive by weakening the muscles.
Again, these are just some ideas to get you thinking. This would be a very long newsletter if we discussed each point in full!

But the bottom line is this. Be aware of your neck pain. And watch for it not only as a possible headache or migraine trigger, but also as a symptom. As you take the time to analyze your pain, you'll have a better idea which direction your treatment needs to take.

For more tips:

Headlines at Headache and Migraine News

Are you wondering about new migraine medications that were supposed to be on the market by now? Find out more about Levadex and Lasmiditan.

How about some food talk? Your Mom was right - More Evidence that Green Veggies Fight Migraine. And now, Chicken Tikka Masala for Migraine?

Say what?!  Cervical

The word "cervical" can be a littel confusing because it has more than one meaning. From the Oxford dictionary, cervical is first defined as Relating to the narrow neck-like passage forming the lower end of the womb. But cervical is also used to refer to anything relating to the neck (and so cervical pillow, cervical collar).

The word actually has its origins in the latin word cervix, which did refer to the neck. But cervical has also been used to refer to "neck-like structures" in the body, hence its use for part of the uterus.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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