While issues anywhere in the body can cause headaches, spine has an important role in contributing to headaches. Tension in the back can cause tightness in the jaw at the base of the skull and in trapezius shoulder muscles leading to headaches.
Similarly leakage of spinal fluid through a puncture hole in the dura mater or tough membrane surrounding the spinal cord may decrease pressure exerted by spinal fluid on brain and spinal cord and result in headaches.
The puncture is created during procedure called spinal tap or lumbar procedure to deliver anaesthesia in instances where pregnant women have epidural during child birth.
Such leakage stretches the nerves and tissues supporting the brain and causes immense pain. Also known as post dural headaches and epidural headaches, they may last anywhere between few hours and few days. Patients feel better while lying down than sitting or standing up.
While lying down, intake of fluids including water, tea, coffee and soda and intake of over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can subside pain, doctors recommend epidural blood patch if the pain fails to subside.
Degeneration of facet joint in cervical spine is a major contributor of headache since pain felt here is also felt in upper neck and head. As a result of spinal stenosis, pinched nerves in the upper neck may also cause pain in the head. When the condition worsens, compression of spinal cord occurs.
Cervical stenosis might result in flow alterations in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which increases intracranial pressure and accumulates waste products, leaving one with headaches and neurological deficits which might lead to dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.
When spinal misalignment irritates nerves travelling through the spine towards head or face, headaches and migraines occur. A chiropractor could evaluate the spine and confirm the spinal misalignment’s contribution to the headache or migraine.
Cervicogenic headache is side-locked and occurs on one side of the neck, head and face. It begins mildly in the neck and radiates upwards on the back of the neck in one side. The pain thus incurred may spread to the forehead, temple and around the eyes and ears.
The difference between cervicogenic headache and migraine is that while the former is rooted in neck or base of the skull, the latter is rooted in the brain. In simple words, the pain is referred from another part of the body.
Cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache caused by trauma like fracture or dislocation or through medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or other infection. It is also caused while sleeping in awkward position or while sleeping in a chair.
After the doctor confirms that it the headache is cervicogenic by nature, it is managed by using medications, physical therapy, surgery or injection. Over the counter medicine like aspirin or ibuprofen, acetaminophen or corticosteroid might be prescribed for the purpose.
Scoliosis also contributes to headaches. When abnormal curvature of the spine develops, it disrupts the flow of cerebrospinal fluid through the spine canal and causes a drop in the CSF pressure in the brain which results as unbearable headaches. Walking and low impact exercises can minimize headache caused by scoliosis.
Though neck pain and shoulder pain are symptoms of spondylosis, occasionally headaches might also occur which start at the back of the neck and travel till forward of the forehead. Reportedly studies show that patients with cervical spondylosis show more possibilities of migraine than those without.
Physical therapy including massage therapy, spinal manipulation, acupuncture and relaxation techniques are applied to strengthen weak neck muscles. If nerve blocks are diagnosed as cause of the headache, injection is administered to clear the nerve block.
Headache and back pain occurs due to injury that occurs through accidents or while at sports. Poor posture can take a toll on muscles on the head and neck which after a prolonged time develops into headache.