Are you hoping that your unexplained headaches are caused by sore neck muscles rather than something more serious like a pinched nerve or brain tumor?

Headaches can be caused by a vast number of conditions including:

• Aneurysm

• Brain tumor: benign and malignant

• Migraine disorder

• Nasal polyp

• Pinched nerve in the neck

• Sinus infection: acute and chronic

• Tension from mental stress

But what about simply sore muscles in the neck?

A headache can be caused by sore neck muscles, says Dr. Moshe Lewis, MD, who is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and has been the chief of PM&R at California Pacific Medical Center.

The headache in this case is actually pain that’s radiating from a problem originating in the neck musculature. These muscles can become overworked from exercise.

Or, they can become strained by spending too much time in one position, such as a sleep position that has the head turned one way while the body is turned the other way, or some other sleep position that can strain the cervical area.

Jutting the head forward while spending large amounts of time at the computer can also aggravate these muscles, leading to a headache.

Dr. Lewis says, “Some of the muscles and nerves in the neck travel to the back of the head, i.e., the greater occipital nerve.

“When muscles go into spasm and nerves become impinged, people can develop cervicogenic headaches.”

Cervicogenic means originating from the cervical area (neck).

These headaches also don’t necessarily occur at the moment of insult.

For example, perhaps you worked out hard at the gym, but only several hours later do you begin getting a headache.

Reducing Headaches from Neck Muscle Strain

A way to reduce these is to make sure you’re well-hydrated. Sip water during your workouts and after, whether you are thirsty or not.

Another tactic is to use proper posture at the computer.

This means don’t jut your head forward; instead move the computer screen closer or get used to viewing the screen from a little further away by not craning forward.

You should also do neck exercises such as rotations in both directions; and massage this area as well.

A self-massage may very well be enough to relieve a headache caused by sore neck muscles.

Dr. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Golden Gate Institute for Physical Medicine in CA, which provides education and clinical management of pain.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


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