Migraine, Tension-Type Headache, and Neck Pain - the Link

Patient Expert
Medically Reviewed

The association between neck pain and migraines was a mystery for quite some time. After some research was published, many of us talked with our doctors and found that the neck pain we thought was triggering some of our migraines was actually a symptom of our migraines. A recent study took a look at the prevalence of neck pain in both migraine and tension-type headache.

The Study:

Study Background:

"We assessed the prevalence of neck pain in the population in relation to headache."

Study Methods:

  • A total of 797 individuals completed an interview and provided self-reported data on neck pain.
  • Participants with migraine (M), tension-type headache (TTH), or both migraine and TTH (M+TTH) were identified and grouped.
  • Pericranial tenderness was recorded in 496 participants.
  • A total tenderness score (TTS) was calculated as the sum of local scores with a maximum score of 48.

Study Results:

  • The one-year prevalence of neck pain was 68.4% and higher in those with migraine and TTH vs. those without migraine and TTH.
  • When compared to participants without migraine or TTH, the prevalence of neck pain was significantly higher in those with
    • M&TTH (89.3%),
    • only TTH (88.4%), and
    • only migraine (76.2%)
  • Participants with neck pain had higher total tenderness scores than participants without neck pain.

Study Conclusions:

"Neck pain is highly prevalent in the general population and even more prevalent in individuals with primary headaches. Prevalence is highest in coexistent M&TTH, followed by pure TTH and migraine. Myofascial tenderness is significantly increased in individuals with neck pain."

Summary and Comments:

The issue of migraine and neck pain is rather complex, but research conducted over the last few years has helped our understanding a great bit. There is a headache disorder specifically connected to neck pain, cervicogenic headache. Cervicogenic headache is referred pain perceived in the head from a source in the neck. Cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache, which means that it is caused by another illness or physical issue. In the case of cervicogenic headache, the cause is a neck disorder or lesion. Cervicogenic headache can trigger migraine attacks.

On the other hand, as this research confirms, neck pain is a very common migraine symptom and a potential symptom of tension-type headache. It's sometimes difficult to figure out whether we're experiencing cervicogenic headache, or if we're experiencing migraine or tension-type headache with neck pain. If you fall into the second category, ask your doctor to help.

See More Helpful Articles:* ** Neck Pain as a Migraine Symptom**


Ashina, Sait; Bendtsen, Lars; Lynchberg, Ann C.; Lipton, Richard B.; Najiyeva, Nazrin; Jensen, Rigmor. "Prevalence of neck pain in migraine and tension-type headache: A population study." Cephalalgia 2015, Vol. 35(3) 211-219.

Live well,

PurpleRibbonTiny Teri1

_Please join us for the 2015 AHMA Patient Conference on June 21, 2015. _

Follow me on     or