Can neck pain be a trigger for migraine?

Neck pain is considered a common characteristic of migraine attacks. Musculoskeletal changes in the cervical region are known to affect subjects with migraine, which can be contributed to joint hypomobility (i.e. stiffness), and motor control deficits (i.e. strength and endurance deficits of muscles in the neck).

A recent study in 2019 examined evaluated motor control of cervical muscles in individuals with migraine. Specifically, the authors compared the extensor/flexor cervical muscle ratio in people with migraine and in those without migraine.

The following are results:

Big points:

  1. Women with migraine present with a muscular imbalance in comparison to healthy women

  2. Women with migraine present with a worse performance in the craniocervical flexion test

  3. The cervical muscle function of women with migraine differs from that of healthy women

These pioneering findings reinforce the fact that women with migraine show poorer muscle performance in the cervical region. Most therapy places examine your posture, however, there is no evidence that head and cervical posture are altered in migraine patients.

Therefore, if you are suffering from migraines and have never had analysis of the motor performance of your neck flexors and extensors, then it is probably worth your time to get examined by a specialist and depending on findings, then develop a plan of care to improve the deficits.

You will be surprised how much a specific treatment and training approach for the cervical (neck) musculature could potentially decrease the frequency and intensity of your migraine episodes.


Harrison Vaughan is a physical therapist and co-owner of PhysioFit of North Carolina. The practice is located in Wake Forest, NC and specializes in the treatment of neck disorders, headaches, dizziness, vertigo and chronic pain. Feel free to contact us to determine how we can help you live life happier!

Call us: 919-728-0335