Migraine is more than just a headache. These episodes involve intense pulsing or throbbing pain. Often, this is felt in a specific area of the head. The episodes can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. They may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraine impacts more than 10 percent of the global population and is three times more likely to be experienced by women than men. According to the 2018 Migraine in America survey, 69 percent of people with migraine also experience neck pain when having an episode.

The link between neck pain and migraine has long been established. Recent research found that neck pain is usually a symptom of migraine and not a cause.

Migraine typically originates in the brain. Cervicogenic headaches may also induce neck pain, but are rooted in the cervical spine or base of the skull.

There are several theories as to why you might experience neck pain with a migraine. One is that the migraine might affect the trigeminocervical complex, a part of the brain that contains pain nerves linked to the face and upper neck.

Other researchers believe that musculoskeletal problems (such as bad posture and joint diseases) could trigger migraine by activating nerves in the upper neck.

The exact link between migraine and neck pain remains unknown. This makes it harder to know how to treat neck pain resulting from migraine. In fact, treating associated neck pain may be best accomplished by treating the migraine itself.

Ideally, migraine should be treated as early as possible (when they first start). This is when they are most likely to respond to medication. Options include non-specific migraine treatments such as:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • metoclopramide (Reglan), an anti-nausea medication
  • migraine-specific treatments, such as triptans, ditans, and gepants

Research has identified several potential home treatment options for both migraine and neck pain. These include:

  • avoiding foods and beverages that are known migraine triggers, including nitrates, alcohol, and anything processed
  • applying lavender oil to the temples and inhaling for 15 minutes
  • acupressure
  • acupuncture
  • applying peppermint oil to the forehead and temples
  • adding ginger powder to tea
  • yoga
  • trying biofeedback
  • adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet
  • scheduling a weekly massage
  • stretching
  • transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Nausea is common during migraine. One study found that about a quarter of all people with migraine deal with nausea. You’re more likely to feel this when certain parts of the brain — the rostral dorsal medulla and periaqueductal gray — are activated.

Treating nausea associated with migraine might also be best accomplished by treating the migraine first. In this case, ginger has been found through research as a potential natural treatment for both migraine and nausea.

Once you learn what triggers your migraine, you may be able to avoid episodes. To learn what these triggers are, you need to track your symptoms and pay attention to patterns.

Common migraine triggers include:

  • some foods, such as chocolate, cheese, nuts, citrus fruits, and processed meats
  • alcohol
  • weather, especially changes in barometric pressure
  • electromagnetic fields
  • bright lights and sunlight
  • strong smells

Migraine is often debilitating. You should see your doctor, or update your doctor, about migraine episodes. Don’t ignore other frequent headaches or headaches that interfere with daily life.

A migraine may require a trip to the emergency room if:

  • it follows a head injury or accident
  • you’re having trouble with speech
  • you’re experiencing confusion or personality changes
  • your vision is blurred

Finding relief for your migraine and accompanying neck pain starts with seeing your healthcare provider. Together, you can create a treatment plan.