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5 Main causes for headaches due to neck pain

Neck pain is usually not a sign of a serious problem, and is more common in cases of over-tension caused by situations such as emotional stress, increased blood pressure or anxiety, for example. Normally, in these cases it is also possible to feel the neck more rigid and a pain in both sides of the nape of the neck.

However, there are some cases in which neck pain may be a symptom of a more serious problem such as meningitis or aneurysm, but in these cases it is usually accompanied by severe nausea, vomiting or fever.

5 Main causes for headaches due to neck pain

1. High blood pressure

Stressful situations can provoke an exaggerated increase in your blood pressure and so it is one of the main causes of pain behind your head, also leading to the appearance of other symptoms like blurred vision. Learn more about other high blood pressure symptoms.

How to treat: The best way to relieve this kind of pain is to relax and try to lower your blood pressure. To do so, you should be cautious about the food you eat, avoid eating salt-rich foods, and drink more liquids like water. In addition, regular physical activity, accompanied with a health professional, is also indicated to improve blood circulation, and consequently help regulate your blood pressure. If the pressure is not controlled or if neck pain occurs more frequently, it is recommended you go to the cardiologist.

2. Contracture or torticollis

Another very common cause of neck pain is the presence of muscle problems such as contractures or torticollis in the neck or upper back region. Generally, this type of pain arises after doing intense workouts that involve your back or shoulders, but it can also happen due to poor posture during the day or when sleeping. The pain may be at the nape of the neck when turning your neck, for example.

How to treat: You can put hot patches on your back and neck, rest is also important. If the pain does not improve, go to a general practitioner as it may be necessary to start using muscle relaxants such as Cyclobenzaprine hydrochloride. Check out 4 steps to end your neck pain.

3. Arthritis

Arthritis causes degeneration in the joints, osteoarthritis can also be one of the causes of neck pain. This is because, in the region of the neck, there are several joints between the vertebrae of the spine. Therefore, if there is any degeneration in these regions, pain may radiate to the nape of the neck. Usually, this type of pain worsens with the movement of the neck, worsening throughout the day and relieving with rest. Pain at the nape of the neck when coughing may also indicate arthrosis in the neck.

How to treat: To relieve pain crisis, an orthopedist must be consulted so that you can start using painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. However, to prevent pain from recurring you should do activities that may help relieve weight on your joints such as water aerobics, Pilates or yoga, for example.

4. Meningitis

Meningitis is one of the most serious causes of neck pain and, although rare, can occur at any age, especially if there is an outbreak of the disease. In these cases, the pain in the neck is very strong and appears along with other symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting and excessive tiredness.

How to treat: Meningitis needs to be identified and treated as quickly as possible, so whenever there is a suspicion of the disease it is important to go to the emergency room to make the diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment, which may include the use of antibiotics.

5. Aneurysm 

A brain aneurysm is a dilation of a blood vessel in the brain that can end up breaking down over time and causing the onset of a hemorrhagic stroke. Generally, this type of change does not cause any symptoms before it breaks, but there are few cases where a constant headache may appear at the nape of the neck. When it breaks, the pain is very strong and sudden and can continue to worsen over time.

How to treat: If a ruptured aneurysm is suspected, it is very important to go to the hospital immediately or call an ambulance by calling 999 (UK) and 911 (US). Aneurysm rupture causes the same type of lesion as a stroke and can therefore put your life at risk.

When to go to the doctor

It is recommended you see a doctor when neck pain:

  • Is incapacitating;
  • Takes more than 48 hours to pass;
  • There is also chest pain or heart palpitation;
  • Is accompanied by vomiting or a fever above 38ºC.

In these cases, a clinician or neurologist should be consulted for tests, so that he can discover the possible cause of neck pain, and appropriate treatment. The doctor may also recommend an orthopedist when pain is caused by diseases in the spine or muscle problems, for example.

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