The connection between neck stiffness and headache explained

When you get up in the morning with a stiff neck, it is tempting to crack your neck. But it can sometimes lead to a headache. Neck stiffness and headache are frequently cited simultaneously. There are various neck issues that can compress, strain, and irritate your neck nerves, which can cause headaches. 

Generally, a stiff neck is caused due to overwork or poor posture.  In many cases, it can be caused by medical conditions, such as herniated cervical disk and pinched nerve. Let us explore more about neck stiffness and headache through this article. 

Neck pain causes

Various factors might contribute to neck discomfort, like strains, injuries, and specific medical conditions. 

A few general causes of neck pain are:

  • Poor posture
  • Overuse of neck muscles (Excessive use of phone and computer)
  • Poor sleeping position
  • Herniated disc
  • Injury

Headaches causing stiff neck

Tension-Type Headache

A Tension-Type Headache may lead to a stiff neck, which might be caused by problems with specific nerves or muscles. 

The root of a tension headache can cause the following conditions:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Anxiety 

All these conditions might result in hardened muscles at the back of your neck and your skull’s base. 

A tension headache also causes mild to modest pain that seems like a band tightening all over your head. 


Migraine is generally characterized by modest to critical thumping pain in the neck or the head. It can cause neck stiffness and various symptoms, such as nausea and enhanced sensitivity to light or sound. A few of the most general triggers of migraine are: 

  • Skipping meals
  • Fluctuations in hormone
  • Stress
  • Weather changes
neck stiffness and headache

Headaches caused by neck stiffness

Some headaches can be caused by specific neck issues, like chronic neck tension, inflammation, and injury. 

Cervicogenic headache (CGH)

These are contemplated secondary headaches, which means they are caused due to other neck-related problems. 

Below are a few of the possible causes of CGH:

  • Trauma or neck injury 
  • Inflammation 
  • Neck strain 
  • Deformity of cervical vertebrae 

As cervical nerves pass on pain indications, these nerve-related issues can activate cervicogenic headaches, which cause blurred vision, nausea, pain, stiffness, and high sensitivity to sound or light. 

Occipital neuralgia

This headache is specified by throbbing pain, which generally starts in your neck and then moves upwards. It might also cause pain in the backside of your head, forehead, scalp, and behind the eyes or ears. It is commonly caused due to inflammation, irritation, or injury in the occipital nerves, which are found on your scalp. 

Occipital neuralgia could be due to:

  • Cervical disc disease
  • Chronic neck tension
  • Nerve compression
  • Osteoarthritis of the cervical spine

When are neck pain and headaches serious?

A minor, short-lived headache and a stiff neck are nothing to worry about. But there are a few situations when seeing a doctor is necessary, for example: 

  • If the headaches and neck pains are consistent for around two weeks
  • You have numbness below your arms and a stiff neck
  • A severe injury can be the reason for neck stiffness
  • You experience confusion and fever along with both headache and neck pain 
  • You have eye pain following your headache and a stiff neck
  • If your headaches are not responding to various treatments 


Treating neck stiffness and headache can differ based on many aspects, such as severity, cause, and type of problem you are encountering. 

Dr. Akhil Tiwari has been offering specialized treatments for spine problems.His motive is to help his patients to get back to their daily routine with the help of the most effective options for non-surgical treatment and, if needed, utilizing various technologies to carry out minimally invasive treatments for every age group.