Comparing Migraine and Cervicogenic Headache: A Quick Guide

cervicogenic headache, migraine and neck pain

It is not uncommon for migraine and neck pain to happen simultaneously. In fact, some migraineurs note that they experience mild to severe neck pain during their episodes. Despite being uncomfortable and debilitating, some patients dealing with migraine or cervicogenic headaches choose to suffer in silence, hoping their symptoms will resolve independently. This can happen, but not for long. Sooner or later, your symptoms can come back to haunt you.

Migraine headaches and cervicogenic headaches bring pain and discomfort to people living with this condition. Though they share some similarities, there are also significant distinctions between these two conditions. 

We will examine the critical differences between migraine and cervicogenic headaches, including their symptoms and care options. If you're struggling with either type of headache, seeking an accurate diagnosis and appropriate care is vital. It will also be helpful to understand more about migraine and cervicogenic headaches to help you deal with the pain and discomfort that leads to migraine and neck pain.


Cervicogenic Headache: Causes and Symptoms

Most people who experience cervicogenic headaches or neck headaches usually feel the throbbing at the base of their skull or top of the neck. Doctors usually spot neck headaches from their patients who complain about headaches. Some healthcare providers categorize it as a secondary headache disorder because it usually results from a health condition outside the head, in this case, your neck. 

However, patients need not worry because cervicogenic headaches, albeit uncomfortable, are rarely life-threatening and quickly relieved by addressing the neck problem.

Neck Headaches Causes

Usually, upper cervical spine disorders trigger an onset of cervicogenic headaches. This is due to the stress it brings to the bones, discs, muscles, and tissues located and surrounding the neck. It usually starts in several musculoskeletal or neurovascular structures in your upper neck. This consists of the topmost three vertebrae – the C1, C2, and C3, spinal cord coverings, and neck muscles. Once a disorder occurs in this area, your brainstem will start transmitting incorrect information that can potentially trigger a headache. Here are some examples of neck headache triggers that can affect the C1, C2, and C3 bones: 

  • Stiff neck joints
  • Excessive stress on the neck
  • Cervical osteoarthritis (spondylosis)
  • Damaged disc
  • Whiplash
  • Compressed nerve

Neck Headaches Symptoms

Cervicogenic headaches are often mistaken for migraine, but if you look closely, migraines are more severe compared to neck headaches. This can be a common mistake because these two conditions share similar pain points and symptoms, particularly headaches. The symptoms include: 

  • Stiff neck or mild loss of motion in the neck
  • Unexplainable exhaustion or tiredness
  • Radiating headaches from the back to the front of the head
  • Headache on both sides of the head yet worsens on one side
  • Headache that can improve or hit when the neck moves
  • Headache that slightly improves by applying pressure or massaging the neck or the base of the skull

cervicogenic headache, migraine and neck pain






Migraine: Causes and Symptoms

If you're among the many people who live with migraines, you are familiar with the severe pain of throbbing on one or both sides of your head. Migraine is a debilitating health condition that interferes with your life. If someone from your family suffers from a migraine, you are also at risk for migraine attacks because genetics play a significant role in the development of the condition.

Migraine Causes

Migraine has been a common complaint in adults; however, its exact cause remains unknown. To help identify migraine, healthcare providers match their patients' episodes to possible triggers. This also helps them advise appropriate care for more long-term relief. Some typical migraine triggers are:

  • Hormones
  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration
  • Caffeine
  • Stress
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Weather Changes
  • Medication overuse
  • Upper cervical spine misalignment

Migraine Symptoms

Patients dealing with migraine and neck pain also experience pulsating headaches and other symptoms that can happen simultaneously, including:

  • Sensitivity to bright lights, loud noise, and foul odors
  • Nausea that may or may not lead to vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Visual disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings


Migraine and Cervicogenic Headache Tips for Relief

Seeking upper cervical chiropractic care may help you find relief and eliminate your neck headache and migraine. Upper cervical chiropractic doctors use gentle methods to relieve neck, spine, and other body pain by correcting the upper cervical spine alignment.

This chiropractic care focuses on the top two bones of your spine - C1 and C2 - located in your neck area. When these bones shift out of alignment, it can put excessive pressure on your brainstem and its surrounding nerves, muscles, and tissues.

Upper cervical chiropractic doctors perform gentle and safe adjustments and manipulation that slowly brings back your C1 and C2 bones to their proper alignment leading the way for the rest of the spine vertebrae to follow suit. When these bones align, your body slowly regenerates and heals by itself, making it possible to relieve and eventually eliminate your symptoms, providing long-term relief.


Where to Find Upper Cervical Care for Migraine and Neck Pain

Many people swear by the improvement and relief they experience following a series of upper cervical adjustments. However, remember only to consult and seek proper upper cervical care from certified upper cervical chiropractic doctors. You can browse the Upper Cervical Awareness doctor directory to find a practice near you. Just key in your location, and you will find chiropractors specializing in different techniques, such as NUCCA, Blair, Orthospinology, Atlas Orthogonal, EPIC, Knee Chest, and more.


Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Areato schedule a consultation today.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.