Relationship between Migraine and Chronic Back Pain – Triggering Factors and Sequela of Migraine

Migraine is a type of headache which may be unilateral or bilateral, throbbing type and it may be mild, moderate or severe. Typically it is associated with typical symptoms called aura. These symptoms may include photophobia, nausea, vomiting, flashes of light in front of eyes or feelings of numbness, etc. in the body. Migraine is aggravated by light, sounds, physical exertion or odor. According to research published in the journal, “Pain” amazing results were found when the analysis was done regarding the association between chronic lower back pain and headache (tension headache or migraine headache). In this study, it was found that the likelihood of having chronic back pain was significantly higher in the persons suffering from chronic or episodic headache as compared to the control group. In simple words, it can be said that chronic back pain and migraine type of headache often co-exist.

What Causes the Triggering of Migraine?

There are many factors that can trigger or exacerbate migraine attack. These may be certain kinds of foods, some inherited genes or allergic reactions of the body. One thing that is usually ignored, is back pain. Yes, backache also can cause migraine. This can happen due to one of the following reasons:

  1. Any defect of the vascular system. If there is any disorder of the cardiovascular system, the brain cannot find the adequate amount of blood flow. Compromised supply of oxygen and nutrients can result in many complications like meningitis, encephalitis, brain abscess, intracerebral bleeding or some other pathologies. Due to a defect in the vascular system, the blood supply to intervertebral discs and back muscles is also lessened, so back pain often co-exists with headache in such cases.
  2. Central nervous system defects. The nervous system is broadly divided into two parts, i.e. the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system comprises the brain and spinal cord. Any insult to this area like any degenerative disease, infection, injury , stress on nerves, stroke, autoimmune diseases or tumors can be the reason for migraine along with back pain.
  3. Abnormal chemical properties. There are certain neurotransmitters present in the blood called dopamine and serotonin through which messages are sent to the brain. If these neurotransmitters are not present at their proper level, this results in an abnormal activation of the blood vessels in the brain. Abnormal neurotransmitter level also leads to back pain because of abnormal nerve conduction. The level of these neurotransmitters may be disturbed due to a certain type of foods, contraceptive pills or skipping meals.

Can Injury of the Spine Cause Migraine Headache?

Migraine headache is a very debilitating condition. Some patients suffering from migraine headache claim that back and neck injuries enhance the frequency of their episodes of migraines. According to a study, the most common disorder of the spinal column that can trigger headache is the degeneration of facet joints in the cervical region. There are several causes for damage to the facet joints which exacerbate cervical-spine related migraine pain.

  1. Wear and tear arthritis. In older patients, wear and tear changes are common which can result in inflammation in the facet joints. This leads to muscle tightness, spasm of musculature. In this condition, pain is referred up into the base of the skull. In this condition, a type of headache may also happen which starts at the base of the skull and surrounds the head.
  2. Joint Injury. In younger persons, trauma is the typical cause of joint damage. Trauma may be due to a roadside accident or a fall. Trauma may cause the stretching of the capsule of the joint or may damage the cartilage of the joint, both conditions can lead to chronic back pain associated with a headache too if the damage is in the upper part of the spinal column. Some patients suffering from migraine report that the frequency of their migraine attacks was increased significantly after suffering from trauma.

Muscle Tightness

When a joint present in the cervical region of the vertebral column is inflamed or strained, this inflammation gives rise to secondary muscle tightness and stiffness. This tightness and stiffness of musculature can also cause pain at the base of the skull because here the muscles of the back are attached with the skull. Whenever a muscle becomes taut in the body, it starts aching because it is now not provided with an adequate amount of oxygen. Tut and stiff muscles also limit your range of movements and make it difficult and aching for you to turn your head.

Relationship of Poor Posture with Headache and Backache

If you practice often to slouch while standing or sitting, this can cause the straining of the muscles in the neck, back of the head, upper part of back and jaw. This also results in the exertion of extra pressure to the nerves of these areas. As a consequence, poor posture cause pain in the back of the head, front of head, neck and upper part of your back. It also causes muscles tightening and straining which exacerbate the episode of migraine headache. You must stand or sit in the upright posture to relieve headache and back pain occurring due to poor postural practice. Physical therapy is also useful in this situation. If pain is not relieved, you can also use over the counter painkillers.

Migraine as a Sequela to Chronic Lower Back Pain

The happening of migraine headache as a sequela of lower back pain was examined in a sample of patients suffering from chronic pain and the results of the study were published in 1994. All patients were suffering from lower back pain but had no history of headache, upper back, neck and head injury. The sample of the patients was followed for years and with proper research, migraine headache was proven a common concomitant of backache. In many patients, the headache was begun or enhanced significantly after the occurrence of lower back pain. The incidence of migraine was higher in the female population as compared to males.