Both back pain and headaches can cause severe discomfort to the sufferer, but is there a link between the two of them? Various studies have confirmed that there may be a connection between the incidence of these two painful conditions.
It must be noted that back pain may lead to a specific type of headache, rather than different headache types. Additionally, not all forms of back pain, such as generalised back pain, may lead to headaches, but rather only conditions that affect the cervical spine, rather than the thoracic spine or lumbar spine may cause head pain to the sufferer.
However, the occurrence of headaches due to back pain may have more of an indirect link, as will be explained in a further section below.
First, we shall explore the types of headaches, as well as their triggering points, to better understand what type(s) of headaches can be caused by pain in the back or neck.
Following this classification, we will address the way back pain may influence the onset of pain in other parts of the body, especially the head.
Types of headaches
Headaches themselves can be split into two main categories – primary and secondary.
In primary headaches, the pain is triggered by local factors – meaning the trigger point occurs near the region where the pain is present -, whereas secondary headache types occur due to factors that originate in a different part of the body – including the back and neck.
Types of primary headaches include:
1.One of the most debilitating types of pain that occurs in the head region is that of migraines. Migraine headaches create a specific type of pain that may make the sufferer’s head is throbbing or pulsating.
Sometimes people who suffer from this type of headaches discover that they heightened senses, including sensitivity to light, sound, and smell while the head pain is present.
Additionally, some people may also experience dizziness, brain fog, nausea, or even vomiting as part of this condition.
Due to the severity of these symptoms, a person who suffers from migraines may at times be unable to carry out simple everyday tasks.
The exact causes of this condition are not known, although some studies suggest that they may be caused by a mixture of emotional and/or physical factors such as heightened emotional states (anxiety, depression, shock), or tiredness, poor posture for prolonged periods of time, tension in the neck or back muscles.
2. Another type of primary headaches includes cluster headaches.
They are characterised by having a sudden onset, and causing sharp stabbing pain on one, rather than both sides of the head. It is felt mainly behind and around the eye on the affected region.
Although the exact cause of this type of headache is not known, some evidence suggests that sensitivity to strong smells or lights may lead to its onset. Genetic factors may also play a role in their occurrence.
3.Tension headaches, the third type of primary headaches, tends to occur on both sides of the head and is milder in nature than the previous two types. In some people, it may make both the head and neck region to feel tight, as if a rubber band is wrapped around them.
Some of the most common triggers for it include:
- Poor posture
- Muscle tightness in the neck
Secondary headache types include:
As previously stated, secondary headaches tend to be caused by factors that originate in other parts of the body, including medical conditions that occur in these regions.
1.One of the first types included in this category is that of sinus headaches. They are most often caused by an allergic reaction or infection and may be accompanied by a runny nose.
They may be accompanied by a feeling of tightness or pressure in the face, a stuffy nose, or even tiredness.
2. Rebound headaches, also known as medication overuse headaches, tend to occur when a person who is taking painkillers or medication that is meant to treat other types of headaches keeps taking said medication for longer than it is recommended. If the person continues to repeatedly take the medication that is meant to relieve pain in the first place, it may lead to it actually causing the pain.
3. Cervicogenic headaches are another type of pain that occurs due to issues in the neck, such as spinal stenosis, damaged discs, muscle damage or injury, or other issues in the cervical region of the spine that affect the spinal column and/or spinal cord.
In this sense, because the neck is part of the vertebral column and therefore part of the back, it can be said that neck and therefore back pain may lead to headaches.
4. Spinal headaches, on the other hand, may be triggered during procedures that puncture the spine, such as an anaesthesia or epidural injections.
How back pain affects the rest of your body
Spinal conditions that affect both the back and the neck may cause symptoms to the sufferer, although they may not necessarily always cause back pain. Certain people may experience something called ‘referred pain’. This implies that although the triggering factor occurs in one part of the body, such as the spine, the symptoms, or even the pain may be felt in other parts of the body, other than where it originates.
That being said, there may be cases where people who suffer from spinal conditions may experience pain in their limbs, or even head, in the form of pain that is referred from the spine. In this case, back conditions, although not necessarily back pain itself may cause headaches.
Alternatively, as previously stated, because the neck is an extension of the back, and is the structure that is responsible for supporting and providing movement to the head, if any issues are present in the neck, including pain, this may extend to the head as well. In particular issues with muscles in the neck region, particularly tension and stiffness may lead to headaches.
On another note, some studies suggest that there is a correlation between people who suffer from lower back pain being more prone to experiencing headaches as well.
Some conditions that affect the lower back include: sciatica, generalised back pain, cauda equina syndrome, iliac crest pain and others.
In addressing headaches that occur due to spinal issues, it is best to focus on treating or managing the spinal condition first. When the spinal issue is addressed, the symptoms caused by it, including those that are referred, shall resolve after the treatment of the issue that lies within the spine. That being said, some management and treatment options for this type of pain include:
- Painkillers and pain-relieving medication to temporarily alleviate the pain in the back. However, one must exercise caution to avoid suffering from side effects that cause more harm than good, such as suffering from rebound headaches. In this case, it is recommended to follow the advice of your doctor in terms of dosage as well as how long painkillers can be taken for.
- Physical therapy to re-mobilise the spine in case the stiffness, tension or lack or flexibility in the spine may be causing the sufferer pain in the head.
- Physical activity to strengthen the muscles that support the spine, as well as to improve poor posture.
- Exercises that focus on pain relief, most likely with the help of a special orthopaedic device that provides spinal decompression, such as the Backrack:
Spinal Backrack Technology for Effective Pain Relief
The Spinal Backrack is a unique and innovative device that provides long-term back pain relief through exercises that are easy to do at home and use only your own body weight.
Through these exercises, it massages both the muscles of your back and neck, as well as the skeletal structure holding your spine upright, to relieve any tension or even spinal compression, which is one of the leading causes of pain in this part of the body. In doing so, it also alleviates headaches that are caused due to back or neck issues.
And the best part is that it is absolutely free of side-effects, as it is 100% natural. Other than spinal injury or infection, Backrack™ helps you treat 98% of all back pains at home without any medication.
Thousands of people have already seen its benefits, so why not be one of them? Read more below.