What Causes Severe Headaches and Neck Pain

One of the best-known reasons patients seek out the help of chiropractors is for neck pain and you may not know that a sore neck is often associated with headaches and dizziness as well. In fact, a headache could be due to chiropractic problems such as a misaligned neck. So if you experience constant headaches, neck pain and dizziness, you may be wondering if a chiropractor can help. 

In this article, we’ll look at facts around the causes of severe headaches and associated neck pain. We’ll also try to give you a better idea of how and when it might help to see a chiropractor for treatment.

The Types of Headaches Related to Neck Pain

A headache isn’t a specific medical condition. Instead, we use the term headache to describe any constant pain in the muscles and other soft tissue around our scalp. Headaches have many different causes. Headaches with similar causes or symptoms are often referred to by specific names. Some of these are more closely associated with simultaneous neck pain. Some are known to originate from issues with the neck and upper spine.

What Causes Severe Headaches and Neck Pain

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are a prevalent form of headache. They originate directly from the muscles of the scalp, forehead, temples and upper neck. The pain from a tension headache can be moderate or severe. Tension headaches arise when the muscles in question tighten considerably, causing pain. The causes of tension headaches are not entirely understood. It is suggested they range from general stress, depression or anxiety and injury to the head or neck. They are most common in teenagers and young adults and slightly more common in women.


Migraines are much more severe than regular tension headaches. Pain from a migraine is often completely debilitating and can be focused on one specific area of the head or over a very wide area. Migraines are notable for the secondary symptoms associated with the pain of the headache. These include nausea and vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light, trouble with balance, hearing and thinking clearly. Migraines can originate or extend to the neck. 75% of sufferers are women. Those aged fifteen to fifty-five are at the highest risk.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headaches. They are named so because they occur repetitively in a set period of time, called a cluster. Patients may then experience a long period of remission, or no headaches, before experiencing another cluster. Pain is usually severe and focused on one side of the head. Patients most often describe the pain as worst behind the eye. Pain commonly radiates to other parts of the face and jaw on the side of the headache, and can extend to the neck and shoulder.

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic Headaches begin in the neck and are caused by an issue in the muscles and spine closest to the skull. They may begin as neck pain that spreads upwards to the scalp, or the patient may feel like the neck pain is actually originating from the lower parts of the scalp. Pain is usually caused or made worse by specific movements of the neck. The neck may also feel stiff and difficult to move. In severe cases, cervicogenic headaches share symptoms with migraines, including nausea, light sensitivity and difficulty seeing and hearing correctly.

What can cause severe headaches and neck pain?

The cause of headaches isn’t very well understood. What we do know is that they are many and varied. Headache pain can be roughly grouped into two categories. In primary headaches, the headache itself is the problem and caused by an issue local to where you feel the pain. Secondary headaches occur when the pain is caused by an underlying issue or problem in an area that is somewhat distant from where you feel the headache. It is important to note that neck pain can be associated with both primary and secondary headaches.


Primary Headaches

Pain from primary headaches is either caused by an issue local to the area of pain or has no apparent cause. For example, the pain from a tension headache is caused by tight muscles in the scalp, face and neck. Migraines and cluster headaches have no known cause and are a condition all on their own.

Secondary Headaches

Secondary headaches are caused by a known underlying condition, or the pain in the head and scalp may have spread from pain in an area of the body close by. A cervicogenic headache is an excellent example of a secondary headache. In this case, an issue with the neck or upper spine has caused pain, spreading to the head.

Can you see a chiropractor for neck pain and headaches?

Can you see a chiropractor for neck pain and headaches? In most cases, the answer is yes! This is especially true if your headaches, neck pain, and dizziness are caused by a primary problem in your neck. For example, chiropractors regularly see and treat patients with cervicogenic headaches caused by a misaligned neck. It’s important to remember that chiropractors also specialise in treating the soft tissue closely associated with the spine as well. This means a chiropractor can help with most cervicogenic headaches regardless of the underlying problem. Even if the cause of your headaches isn’t a problem with your neck, a chiropractor’s specialisation in treating the neck and spine can help you manage and relieve your symptoms.

Get in touch to find out more

In the end, the very best way to find out if a chiropractor can help you with your headaches, neck pain and associated dizziness is to speak to one about what you’re experiencing. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we’ve talked about, get in contact with MyChiro and book an appointment with us. One of our practitioners will be able to answer any questions you still have, and let you know exactly how chiropractics can help you – Book Here.