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Please Help...anyone have migraines w/neck problems?

Hi, I hope some of you can shed some light on this subject. I am having surgery in the next month-anterior cervical spine surgery-C4-5, C5-6 with complete removal of the discs, fusion and plating. The doctor will also be hopefully realigning a vertebrae at one of those levels that is pretty much out of alignment. About 16 months ago, I very quickly stood STRAIGHT up into a 14 inch horizontal huge branch coming out of a tree in my backyard while building a rock garden not once, but twice in one week. It sounds really stupid, but I was working out there for days, and I already have bad arthritis in my back and some in my neck, so I was taking frequent breaks by standing up and stretching. I would stand up without looking where I was, and twice I was right under that low branch. I saw stars and dropped to the ground. Everyting felt like it jammed or compressed. I went to my family doctor, and he pretty much blew the whole thing off and did the reflex testing, which was already pretty bad anyway because of my arthritis. He said I probably just "sprained my whole spine" but that I was o.k. He never sent me for an xray or anything. By the way, I am a 53 year old very, very active, fit female, and even with my osteoarthritis, I have always managed to stay out of back surgery by walking almost 4 miles every day to keep my back muscles strong so they scaffold my spine, and I take lodeine twice a day for inflammation. I didn't want arthritis to slow me down at such a young age, especially because I am so active. I was diagnosed with DJD (osteoarthritis) at age 44, same as my Mom, and she is now 84, but in really bad shape with her arthritis, BUT she's always been overweight, and that won't be me!!!! Anyway, right after my injury I started to get very bad migraine headaches. I've always had chronic headaches, probably from the arthritis, but nothing like this, and actually my neck never really gave me much trouble-not like my back did. The headaches got progressively worse after the tree accident-they went from 1-2 a week, to 2-3 a week, etc., and around Christmastime of this past year I started getting them almost every single day!!!!! Unbearable. I went to my family doctor immediately after that first visit 16 months ago, and told him about the migraines starting. He didn't think they had anything to do with hitting my head into the huge tree branch-it made no sense to me, he thought it was just a coincidence because I have always had headaches. I explained that these were 100 times worse and I thought I needed to get my head checked out by a neurologist and he disagreed and put me on topamax and relpax. Topamax to fend the headaches off (which hasn't helped, and relpax to get rid of the headache at onset) I had asked him repeatedly for 15 months if he thought I needed to see a neurologist because the headaches just weren't getting better while he was fooling around with dosing, and he kept sayng I didn't have any neurological symptoms like slurred speech of numbness. I needed his referral and I figured he knew what he was talking about, but I finally had had it, and insisted a month ago when I was at wits end one day with a migraine. Well, sure enough the MRI showed a huge herniation at the C4-5 level and the disc is torn with material from inside also pressing on my spinal cord, protruding disc atC5-6 pressing on cord, and a vertebrae out of alignment and bone spurs. The level above and below those levels are also buldged out, but the doctor doesn't think they are bad enough to touch now. He actually isn't positve that this neck problem is causing the migraines!!!!!!!!! How can it not be?? If I still have the headaches after the surgery, he is going to send me for a scan of my head. That is the opinion of my Neurosurgeon-he just isn't sure. But, when I went to the Neurologist, the migraine specialist there thinks there is a very good chance the migraines are being caused by the neck problem.She immediately put me on the muscle relaxant Zanaflex, and it has relaxed my muscles in my neck, shoulders and upper back and helped the frequency of my headaches. It's amazing that different doctors have so many different views on this. I hope the migraine specialist will be correct, because she is the specialist.She thinks that all the awful prolems in my neck could be causing all that tension and pressure, etc.As I said before, even though I did get a lot of headaches in the past, they were nothing like this, I think those were just stress headaches from everyday stresses because I am high strung. I never needed strong medichine for them.
After this ridiculously long entry, I guess I just want to know if anyone out there had bad migraines resulting from their neck problems, and did they go away after surgery. If so, how long after surgery? Sorry for the length of this entry. I'm bored and scared waiting for my  surgery.Thanks for listening.
4 Responses
693770 tn?1231550085
YES YES and YES!!!! I have had 2 cervical fusions that have not taken because I have bad bones. I have DDD, spinal stenosis, spondylosis and bone spurs pushing on my spinal cord. I have major pain in my neck, shoulder, arms and hands DAILY! INot to mention the headaches that I have daily that get stronger as the day progress or the more I move around. I lost my medical insurance so the doctor can't do repairs just yet. I am waiting for perm disability to come through.
However, in my waiting it seems I am always looking for information on my condition. I ran across a website: painmanagementrounds.org. Here I found an interesting article on a specific headache "Occipital Neuralgia". The greater occipital nerve passes through the cervical spine at c1-4 and any changes including spondylosis, arthritis of the upper cervical facet joints can cause this type of head ache. Symptoms included aching, burning, and throbbing pain that can be on one or both sides of head and can have continuous/intermittent, shocking, shooting pain. Pain usually is over the neck, temple, and frontal regions. Ocassionally, neck movement extension/rotation may trigger this pain. ETC.....
There are many medications for treatment, or surgery is suggested if there is structural changes in the neck.
Soooo.... go to the website, read-up and see if this is anything that comes close to your headaches. For me, this is right on target.
I hope I have helped... Good luck with your surgery!
Avatar universal
Thanks so much for your input. I will definitely check out the website you mentioned! I read something about the occipital bone and occipital nerve when I was doing my own research when I was trying to figure out my migraines. It seems to me that when I hit my head straight up into that huge branch that had no give to it whatsoever,  that I could have done some damage in that occipital bone area where the occipital nerve runs or the
C1-4 area. I don't know if working on the C4-5 and C5-6 area would correct that if it is the occipital nerve that is causing the headaches. That is higher  up on the cervical spine.I don't know if that would have showed up on my MRI because the Nerosurgeon and Neurologist didn't mention anything about that. I have to have an appt. with an ENT doctor before the surgery, because I also have a lot of pressure in my sinuses for some reason, and he will probably do an MRI of my sinuses. I would prefer an MRI of my whole head to be done because of just how hard I hit my head (not once, but twice) and maybe something else is wrong that didn't show up on the neck xray that is causing the headaches. The Neurosurgeon did say that if the headaches don't go away after the surgery, he will order an MRI of my head, but I would rather they do that first. I'm thinking that if the ENT doctor ends up ordering one, why not just do the whole head now. It may be more cost effective too. I could be wrong.I'll check out that website now. Good Luck to you, too!
Avatar universal
Yes, I have been told by some of my the physicians treating me that my migraines can appear as a result of my neck problem.  Two of these specialists call it Cervical Vertigo, You see I get the aura vertigo (spins) before the migraine appears.  Topamax has been very helpful for this, but when my neck and upper shoulder/back is really sore, I know I am in trouble.  That means either a spin or a headache, or both are coming. It takes time for the Topamax to be effective initially, but once it is in your system, it is very useful in preventing the migraines.  Another useful aid is massage therapy.  I visit a massage therapist once a week.  She is able to release the knots that form and loosen the muscles that tighten constantly.  My neck (C3 and C4) tend to go out of alignment too from time to time and she gently realigns them.
Avatar universal
Thanks so much for your input. I am awaiting neck surgery (ACDF) which is tentative for May 1. I have been weaned off the Topamax, which I was on for 14 months, because it never helped me at all. When my family doctor originally put me on it, he was convinced that my migraines were just typical migraines. He never bothered to do an MRI or even an xray after my neck injury, and didn't relate my migraines to the neck injury. My suspicions that the migraines were caused from injuring neck were proven when I finally had an MRI of my neck a couple of months ago. I had finally insisted on going to a Neurologist, and he immediately put me on Zanaflex to relax the muscles and tension in my neck, and is almost positive that all those headaches are resulting from the mess in my neck. The Zanaflex helped me immediately, and hopefully after the surgery I can go off of it if the headaches are gone for good by correcting the neck problem. It made sense that the migraines were stemming from my neck, because they came on right after the injury to my neck. My doctor had himself convinced that that wasn't the case. I don't know why I listened to him for so many months before finally INSISTING on an MRI.

I was just finally weaned off of the Topamax, and I can't believe how much energy I have. It was really bogging me down, and now that I'm off of it, I realize that even more. I don't get that side affect from the muscle relaxant. It's a whole different kind of drug, and it's exactly what I needed for now.

I hope this can be a lesson to anyone out there suffering from migraines. If you aren't getting relief from your migraines, you should ask to have your neck xrayed or have an MRI done. Problems in the neck, that you may be completely unaware of, or maybe are aware, could be causing the headaches. Unfortunately, I have to have the surgery because my neck is so messed up because of the injury. But, for someone else who may have arthritis or a problem that doesn't require surgery in their neck, a muscle relaxant may be a God send for the headaches, because it relieves so much tension.

Thanks again for your input, Profsa. Good luck to you.
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