New Research Reveals the Back Pain/Headache Connection

Back pain and headaches often go hand in hand. There have long been theories about how the two conditions are related. But the latest research reveals that the connection may be stronger than anyone thought.

It shows that if you suffer from one of these issues, it doubles your risk for developing the other one. 

These findings could change the approach to treating these conditions and help get relief for people who suffer from them.

Insights and Solutions from Activa Clinics

The Study

The research was published in the Journal of Headache and Pain. Here are some highlights:

  • It studied the link between chronic headaches and persistent low back pain.
  • Researchers reviewed 14 existing studies.
  • The studies had sample sizes ranging up to 400,000 people.
  • Every study they reviewed suggested there’s a connection.
  • The connection is even stronger for people who suffer from migraines.

How Are They Linked?

It’s still unclear exactly how the two issues are connected. But there are a few theories.

Pain Signals

One possibility is that it’s related to how people feel pain differently. Researchers say that genetic differences in how pain is signalled could mean that some people are just more likely to feel pain from these conditions and to be more sensitive to it.

The Vicious Cycle

Another explanation is based on psychology. It says that chronic pain can lead to a vicious cycle. That’s because pain can cause mental health issues which then increase your sensitivity to pain. So as your pain worsens, so does your mental state, and vice versa. This cycle increases your chances of ending up with both conditions. 

Underlying Issues

And for some people, the cause may be an underlying health issue that leads to both headaches and back pain. That can include things like poor posture, vitamin deficiencies, injuries, and certain diseases.

What Does This Mean for Treatment?

The findings highlight the importance of taking a whole-body approach to health care. It shows that the old-school philosophy of treating these conditions separately is not the most effective solution.

According to the researchers, combined treatment is the answer. They say that whenever a doctor is treating one of these issues, they need to ask about the other and tailor the treatment accordingly.

Chiropractic Can Help

You probably know that chiropractors are experts at treating back pain. But chiropractic care has also been proven as an effective treatment for chronic headaches.

That’s because the adjustments and spinal manipulations that chiropractors perform can alleviate stress on many areas of your body—including the nerves and muscles that cause headaches.

Chiropractors also have the training to provide advice for relieving both back pain and headaches. That includes recommendations on posture, ergonomics, nutrition, exercises, stretches, and relaxation techniques.

Take a Whole-Body Approach

The adjustments and advice chiropractors can provide make them a great starting point for your treatment. But you shouldn’t stop there. You should talk to your healthcare providers about creating a whole-body treatment plan. Since your health issues can often be connected or come from sources you might not expect, this is the best way to uncover the root causes and ensure they don’t return.


Can chiropractic care relieve headaches?

If your headache is a side-effect of poor posture, back or neck problems chiropractic care can help to relieve them. The manipulations carried out are designed to quickly relieve the unnatural stress parts of your body are being put under. The fact that after a session a lot of people feel more relaxed can also help, especially if you suffer from stress-induced headaches.

Can my poor posture cause headaches?

Poor posture can be an underlying cause of headaches. When your spine and other areas of your skeleton are not properly aligned, this leads to tension. In particular, in the back, shoulders and neck. When the muscles in those areas are too tight the nerves are put under unnatural pressure and headaches occur. The fact that the neck muscles attach to the ones that run over the scalp is another factor. Poor posture tightens the neck muscles, which in turn pulls the ones in the scalp too tight.

In medical terms, what is a vicious cycle?

In medical terms, a vicious cycle is an ongoing or repeating condition, that causes other health issues. One that makes the initial health issue worse and, often, more difficult to treat. For example, someone gets a persistent cough, the constant coughing makes their throat sore. This causes it to swell, which makes it feel like there is something in the throat, causing more coughing. In time, the nerve becomes overstimulated, which exacerbates the problem. When that happens, even swallowing a spec of dust can lead to the nerve telling your body to cough.