Can a Pinched Nerve Cause Headaches?

It is true that a pinched nerve in the neck can cause headaches. Headache pain caused by a pinched nerve, or cervical radiculopathy, can be debilitating and difficult to deal with. However, you don’t have to endure this pain. Neurologists are specifically trained in pain management to relieve headaches.

If you are considering seeing a neurologist for your chronic headaches, schedule an appointment at Virgin Islands Neurology today! Our specialists located in the U.S. Virgin Islands look forward to helping you address your discomfort.

A woman is wondering if a pinched nerve is causing her headaches.

Types of Headaches Caused by a Pinched Nerve

The most common type of headache caused by a pinched nerve in the neck is a cervicogenic headache. These headaches typically come from pinched nerves in the C1-C3 vertebrae of the upper or cervical spine. Cervicogenic headaches cause head and neck pain with headaches felt on one side of the head.

Another type of headache that can occur because of a pinched nerve is occipital neuralgia. These are less common than cervicogenic headaches.

There are other headache types related to neck pain. However, these types of headaches are often the cause of neck pain. They can include the following:

  • Tension headaches: A tension headache is usually felt across the forehead. A tension headache can also cause pain in your neck and shoulder.
  • Migraine headaches: Migraines are usually felt on one side of the head but can also be felt in the neck.
A patient treating his pinched nerve headaches with physical therapy.

What Are the Causes and Symptoms?

Each headache type has slightly different causes and symptoms. Below are the causes and symptoms of two types of headaches caused by pinched nerves.

Cervicogenic Headache

The source of a cervicogenic headache is the first three spinal nerves, known as C1- C3 in the upper cervical spine.

The following situations may cause a cervicogenic headache:

You will feel a cervicogenic headache on one side of your head. It is often triggered by certain head and neck movements or by awkward positions of the head. Other symptoms of a cervicogenic headache include the following:

  • Non-throbbing, constant headache pain that radiates from the back of the head to the front
  • Moderate to severe headaches that fluctuate in intensity

As well as head pain, you may also experience the following associated symptoms.

  • Stiff neck
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain in the shoulder, neck, or arm on the same side of the headache
  • Occasional migraine symptoms like nausea, blurred vision, vomiting, dizziness, and a sensitivity to sound and light.

Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia headaches are caused by pressure on the occipital nerves, either through injury or tight muscles. Other medical conditions are also linked with these types of headaches. They include the following:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Cervical disc disease
  • Neck tumors

The symptoms of occipital neuralgia include an intense pain that feels like an electric shock in the back of the head and neck. You may also experience the following symptoms:

Diagnosis of Headaches Caused By a Pinched Nerve

Diagnosis of headaches caused by pinched nerves usually begins with a physical examination and consideration of your medical history, particularly if you have ever suffered from a neck injury. Your doctor will examine to see if certain neck movements cause pain or if you have areas along your neck that respond to touch.

Another diagnostic method your doctor may use is MRI scans. These can give detailed images of the tissues in your neck.

Finally, you may be given a nerve block to see if the nerve is responsible for your headaches.

Treatment for Headaches

There are many options available to treat headaches caused by a pinched nerve. At Virgin Islands Neurology, our neurologists will use the best options according to your symptoms. Some of the treatments available for headaches include the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Nerve block injections
  • Radiofrequency nerve block ablation

Seek Headache Relief Today!

If you are wondering if a pinched nerve is causing your headaches, schedule an appointment at Virgin Islands Neurology today! Our specialists located in the U.S. Virgin Islands look forward to helping you resolve your pain and discomfort.