The spine is made up of wedges of vertebral bone consisting of sacral, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical vertebrae, as well as vertebral discs, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that attach to the spine. When any part of our spine is injured or misaligned, the surrounding muscles often contract, as they tighten to try and protect the spine. This compression can cause further injuries to occur, and concerning the cervical spine, it can also cause severe headaches.
Headaches and neck pain are often linked but also often ignored by many physicians. This is called cervicogenic headache. What causes this problem and how can it be helped? Let’s dig in.
Why Does My Neck Hurt and Give Me a Headache?
As you develop in the womb, your head and upper neck develop together, forever linking pain in one to the other. Hence, the upper neck joints, discs, muscles, and nerves can cause pain that goes into your head (headaches). When this happens it’s called cervicogenic headache. Figuring out which of these is causing the pain and why is key to getting rid of these headaches.
What Are the Things that Cause Cervicogenic Headache?
There are a number of damaged or injured structures in your neck that may be causing a cervicogenic headache:
• Upper neck facet joints
• Irritated occipital nerves
• Pinched upper neck spinal nerves
• Upper neck discs
• Muscle trigger points
• Damaged upper neck ligaments
There are two facet joints in the neck at the back of each spinal level. They are about the size of your small finger joints and can be injured through trauma or become arthritic like any other joint. These joints can be injected using fluoroscopy to guide the needle into the joint. Each specific joint can be numbed to see if this reduces the headache pain. These are commonly called facet blocks or injections. The nerve that takes the pain from the (cervical level) C2-C3 joint which is called the medial branch can also be numbed, which is called a medial branch block.
When irritated by the surrounding muscles or injured, they can refer pain to specific places in the head such as behind the eye and the back of the head to see if these nerves are causing cervicogenic headaches, numbing injections using ultrasound guidance can be performed to determine if they take away the headache.
Sometimes the nerves get pinched if there is a bulging disc at the higher spinal nerve can be irritated by bone spurs and/or if the upper neck is unstable (craniocervical instability).
What Does a Cervicogenic Headache Feel Like?
This is a headache often in the back of the head, but also in the forehead or behind the eye that is associated with neck pain. The neck doesn’t always have to hurt when the headache is present, but there is a clear connection between the neck issues and the headache. The upper neck is usually the area that has the most tenderness.
How Do You Treat a Cervicogenic Headache?
The treatment depends on what’s causing the problem. For example, facet pain can be treated by injecting the facet joints using x-ray guidance. Platelet-rich plasma can help with facet pain as well. Radiofrequency ablation can also help but is somewhat temporary but at times necessary and destroys the nerve that takes the pain from the joint.
The occipital nerve pain and spinal nerves can be treated with nerve blocks or epidural injections. Neck disc pain can be treated with fusion surgery, but that risks causing more pain and arthritis above and below the fused levels so it should be considered a last resort treatment. Another way to treat disc pain is via platelet-rich plasma injection into the discs. Muscle trigger points can be treated with ultrasound guided injections.
Cervical disorders are often brought on by our lifestyle such as sitting at a computer for hours on end. Many people refer to a condition coined “tech neck”, which is intensified by always looking down at our smart phones and devices. If the curvature of the neck is distorted and misaligned due to posture or injury, the pain can be debilitating.
Unfortunately, as we age, neck pain due to injury and degeneration tends to become progressively worse and can become chronic if left untreated.
Getting You Out of Pain Without Surgery
Our comprehensive approach to neck pain management allows long-term relief without the need for surgery. We work with you to incorporate lifestyle factors into your treatments, providing a comprehensive plan to ease neck pain. By utilizing the latest interventional treatments, we’ll provide you with the highest quality of care in neck pain management.
Our interventional treatments for neck pain are minimally-invasive, outpatient procedures. We administer these treatments according to the most recent techniques and guidelines:
• Radiofrequency ablation
• Stellate ganglion block
• Trigger point injections
• Cervical epidural steroid injection
• Cervical facet neurotomy
• Occipital nerve block
• Peripheral nerve stimulation
• Peripheral nerve blocks
• Regenerative medicine injections
Along with traditional pain management, we provide alternative measures to get our patients out of pain. Depending on the diagnosis, we offer Radiofrequency Neuro-Ablation, Indwelling Drug Delivery Systems, Botox Injections, Epidural Steroid Injections, Facet procedure, and Spinal Cord Stimulation are available for the treatment of chronic pain. These procedures have significantly greater success utilizing the approach of The Florida Pain Center.
Florida Pain Center of Naples
We are a group of pain management physicians offering full time interventional pain management. We believe that chronic pain is a unique human condition which requires us to respond with the utmost compassion and perseverance. Our treatments include nonsurgical and surgical methods, as well as more non-traditional techniques, from exercise protocols to performing spinal cord stimulator trials in-office. When difficult pain problems are referred to us, we know that the physicians and patients see us as the last resort. We accept that responsibility, and will work as the patient’s partner to improve his or her condition.
Pain Syndromes We Treat
• Discogenic Pain
• Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
• Neuropathic Pain
• Post Laminectomy Syndrome
• Sacroiliac Joint Pain
• Myofacial Pain
• Spinal Stenosis
• Postherpetic Neuralgia
• Neuroma Pain
• Radicular Pain
• Facet Pain
• Cancer Pain
• Physiological Aspects of Pain
The Florida Pain Center of Naples Promise to You
Personalized patient care is what sets the Florida Pain Center of Naples apart. When you visit our Naples campus, you can expect to receive professional care. Expert physician specialists and caring clinical staff provide you with an exceptional health care experience. We are accepting new patients. Florida Pain Center of Naples utilizes modern equipment and state of the art facilities to assist in your pain management and treatment.
The Goal of the physicians and staff of the Florida Pain Center of Naples is to improve the quality of life by helping patients restore function and manage chronic pain. This is accomplished by addressing medical, physical, and psychological aspects of pain. The staff of pain management physicians have specialty training to address the complexity of chronic pain conditions. With the advanced training and knowledge of the latest research in treatment and technology of chronic pain, our team works together to tailor a personal program to help you significantly increase your quality of life.
Florida Pain Center
730 Goodlette Rd North, #200, Naples, FL 34102