What Does a Neck Injury Headache Feel Like?

Headaches resulting from neck injuries can be quite painful and debilitating. The sensation varies depending on the location and severity of the injury. Here is an overview of what a neck injury headache may feel like:


Neck injury headaches most commonly occur at the base of the skull or the back of the head. However, the pain can radiate to other areas including the forehead, temples, around the eyes, and down the neck. Depending on the nerves affected, headaches may be felt on one side of the head or both sides.

Pain Level

The severity of neck injury headaches can range from mild to excruciating. On a scale of 1 to 10, the pain level is often described as anywhere from 4 to 8. However, some people report debilitating pain at a 10 level.

Quality of Pain

Neck injury headaches are often characterized as feeling like constant, dull, aching pain. However, they may also present as throbbing, piercing, or stabbing pain. The pain may start off mild and become progressively worse over time.

Triggered by Movement

One of the defining features of headaches caused by neck injuries is that certain movements can trigger or exacerbate the pain. Turning the head, looking up or down, or moving the neck from side to side may significantly intensify the headache. Even coughing or sneezing can worsen the pain.

Muscle Tightness

Along with head pain, neck injury headaches often cause soreness and tightness in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Moving the neck is difficult due to muscle spasms and stiffness. Massaging the neck and shoulders may provide some temporary relief.


Some neck injury headaches come and go, while others are persistent. The pain may be constant or may occur intermittently throughout the day. In severe cases, the headaches may become chronic if the underlying neck injury is not properly treated.

Associated Symptoms

Headaches from neck injuries may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and trouble concentrating. Blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and vertigo can also occur. These associated symptoms can make the headaches even more debilitating.

The quality and intensity of pain with neck injury headaches can vary significantly. But the hallmark is head pain that is triggered or exacerbated by neck motion. Getting an accurate diagnosis is important to determine the appropriate treatment. Addressing the underlying neck injury can help alleviate these often persistent and excruciating headaches.