Neck Pain, Nausea, and Short Breath: What Does It Mean?

by Dr. David Watson & Teri Robert Health Professional & Patient Advocate


Hello, I have been having sharp throbbing pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders. This pain has been going on for a few weeks. I also have bad pain all around the top of my head. The pain occurs at night and in the morning when I wake up and usually last all day long. It may go away for a couple hours throughout the day but it does come back. Other symptoms I am experiencing is nausea, occasional tenderness, I feel emotional and vulnerable, and there is pressure in my head and I do feel it when I move it or sit still. I do not feel any pressure in my eyes or any vision problems and I do not hear any swishing in my ears. I have tried over the counter medications such as Advil, Aleve, and Excedrin migraine. But none of them work. I have also been experiencing shortness of breath in the morning for the past few days, feeling very cold before going to bed and a sharp pain going across my upper abdomen.
I have gone to the doctor and he wasn't very much help, he only suggested for me to take the Motrin" but nothing works. I'm not sure what else to do or try. Any help is very much appreciated. Thank you, Vanessa.


Dear Vanessa;

We're sorry to read about the problems you're having. Let's take a look at the symptoms you listed:

  • sharp throbbing pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders

  • bad pain all around the top of my head -occurs at night and in the morning when I wake up and usually last all day long. It may go away for a couple hours throughout the day but it does come back

  • nausea

  • feeling emotional and vulnerable

  • pressure in head

  • sharp abdominal pain

  • shortness of breath in the morning

All but the shortness of breath are known to be possible Migraine symptoms. Neck pain has been found to be even more common with Migraine than nausea. Feeling emotional and vulnerable can be frequent Migraine symptoms because of the fluctuations of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine that can occur as part of the Migraine process.

Shortness of breath is not a common Migraine symptom. It's possible that this comes from panic during a Migraine, BUT it's important that other possible causes for this are ruled out.

Waking with a Migraine or headache is often a sign of sleep issues...

  • too much sleep,

  • too little sleep,

  • not following a regular sleep schedule,

  • disrupted sleep,

  • poor quality sleep.

Here are links to some information that you can read and share with your doctor:

Nobody can diagnose without examining you in person, reviewing your medical history, and discussing your symptoms with you. That means that we can't tell you if your headaches are Migraines, but we can offer you information.

Unfortunately, most doctors learn very little about Migraine and other headache disorders in medical school, and most don't do continuing medical education in this area. If your doctor isn't able to help you, it may well be time to consult a Migraine and headache specialist. It's important to note that neurologists aren't necessarily Migraine and headache specialists. Take a look at the article
Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special?.

Good luck,
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert

About Ask the Clinician:

Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and
Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and

Please note: We cannot diagnose, suggest specific treatment, or handle emergencies via the Internet. Please do not ask us to diagnose; see your physician for diagnosis.

We hope you find this general medical and health information useful, but this Q & A is meant to support not replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. For all personal medical and health matters, including decisions about diagnoses, medications and other treatment options, you should always consult your doctor.

Dr. David Watson & Teri Robert
Meet Our Writer
Dr. David Watson & Teri Robert

Do you have questions about Migraine? Reader questions are answered by UCNS certified Migraine and headache specialist Dr. David Watson, and award-winning patient educator and advocate Teri Robert.