by Nesreen Suwan, M.D.
If you suffer from chronic daily headaches, the hidden sources causing those debilitating headaches may stem from your neck. Injuries or disorders, such as acute whiplash injury caused by car accidents or bulging discs caused by work related injuries, may contribute to those incapacitating headaches. Chronic tension in the neck related to office work may cause headaches as well.
Headaches originating from the neck are called "cervicogenic" and are frequently located in the back of the head. However, headaches in the forehead or around the eyes are also common due to the "referred" pain pattern.
Cervicogenic headaches are common and are described by patients as severe, pounding, throbbing, stabbing and nauseating. They have been ignored, overlooked or discredited because some doctors have not been trained on how to make the diagnosis. Even if they do know about the condition, they may not have the facilities to diagnose or to treat those types of headaches. The neck area is a high-stress zone and it should be evaluated in detail and treated in any patient with chronic or recurrent headaches.
Cervicogenic headaches may trigger or coexist with other common headache types, such as tension, migraine and cluster headaches, compounding the problem. TMJ and sinuses can also set off a smoldering complex headache when combined with cervicogenic headaches.
The important fact in medicine is that medical conditions may coexist. Cervicogenic headache, migraine, cluster headache, or tension headache may combine with other serious headaches related to brain bleeding, tumors, infection, and high or low pressure in the spinal fluid.
Why do headache sufferers need to see a headache specialist?
Pain is often difficult to describe and track symptomatically. As a result, a regular visit to a general physician or a physician in other specialty such as cardiology or gynecology is often not enough to get to the core of what is causing headaches or to determine if there are better treatment options.
For effective headache management and pain control, a detailed history and comprehensive neurological evaluation should be performed to identify headache types, which often coexist, and to rule out other underlying medical conditions that may be serious so the appropriate treatment may be prescribed.
Based on the headache type you are experiencing, your headache specialist will discuss your treatment options and determine which option is best for you.
With all the great advances in headache management, there is no reason for headaches to control your life. Coping with the debilitating headaches or the side effects of too many medications is not supposed to be part of your life. Take the first step to be in charge of your life by conquering your headaches. The goal is to find the origin of the pain, not to mask it, and to enhance the quality of life-the ability to enjoy daily activities and functionality-t hrough an integrated approach to pain management.
Dr. Nesreen Suwan is Loyola trained and American Board certified in neurology and pain medicine, with extra certification in headache medicine and botox treatment. Dr. Suwan specializes in treatment of headaches, migraines and fibromyalgia. She is the director of Advanced Chicago Headache and Fibromyalgia Center in Suburban Lisle. Dr. Suwan is highly recognized as a headache specialist and she is nationally known speaker in her field. To schedule a consultation please call (630) 420 8080 or visit http://controlchicagopain.com.
Debilitating Headaches Related to the Neck
As Featured In Glancer Magazine, October 2011