Untangling the relationship between migraine and neck pain…

Young male with headache working on a laptop computer

How does neck pain relate to migraine?

Why does neck treatment not many, but not ALL migraine patients?

Neck pain affects about 3.5% of the general population globally, although its prevalence increases to over 70% among persons with migraine. Neck pain has been shown to bring on migraine attacks which may lead affected individuals to seek neck treatments for their neck pain and/or migraine. However, studies on manipulation and multi-modal neck treatment have shown only minor improvements in migraine, and no benefits were reported from studies on neck muscle strengthening or joint mobilization. Current clinical guidelines, therefore, do not recommend neck treatment for migraine, whereas patients with migraine often prefer and seek neck treatments (we’ve all seen this in practice!).

The authors of this paper (including Lucy Thomas, Gwendolen Jull and Julia Treleaven) have been conducting research on individuals with migraine and neck pain aiming to improve clinical management by profiling clinical subgroups so that treatments can be well-targeted. The purpose of this current paper is to describe their research and to summarize their findings to date.  

Certainly a thought-provoking summary for those who deal with migraine patients…

From Dr. Thistle: I thought these authors offer us valuable insight into the intricate relationship between migraine and neck pain. In practice, many of us treat migraine patients via cervical spine manual therapy successfully, but we also know that not ALL migraine patients respond to this care…this paper helps us understand why and also helps us set up some clinical methods to decide which migraine patients may respond well to cervical treatment.

RESEARCH REVIEW: Subgrouping Patients with Migraine Associated Neck Pain for Targeted Management

This paper was published in Musculoskeletal Science and Practice (2023)

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