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Stylized torso of human with hands holding back of neck and lower back due to pain.

Neck and Back Pain with Migraine: How Do You Deal With The Pain?

The pitch black except for sprinkles of white light from stars and the moon coming gently through my window make for a very soft and serene night scene—one of the more beautiful gifts leftover from winter is that night still begins early—and at this point I’ve been laying in bed through the night waiting for sleep to reach me for six hours already. I contemplate the beauty of rest that others must be getting at this time of night jealously as I lay awake, shifting in bed over and over again, unable to get comfortable.

Unable to sleep comfortably with migraine

I think to myself: “I spend so much time in bed with migraine, and yet so little time asleep.” This night is not unlike many nights with migraine, except that I can’t seem to find any position that doesn’t make my neck scream. It is 3:00 AM on a Tuesday, and I am very, very sleepy. I haven’t been able to rest in what seems like eons, and it is due to migraine and a very achy body. In the interest of not wasting more time not falling asleep, I turn on some soft music by Esperanza Spalding to help, I know it is going to be a few hours more before I am actually asleep though.

What the neck

Sleep has been hard to come by lately, partly from the fact that I have felt busy catching up on a lot of tasks as I get ready to move to a new city, but mostly because my migraines have been accompanied by awful symptomatic neck and back pain lately, making my daily migraine pain even more been debilitating. I find myself crying more during the day and losing more sleep, because I can’t find consistent relief to these all-over aches that seem to have teamed up. I try to lay down but there doesn’t seem to be any ‘right way’ to position my head to ease the neck pain. I try to fluff my pillows just right to release some pressure from my back, but the drive to work in the morning sets me back a few steps each day, so it seems like a waste.

As well, it is hard to sleep with an ice pack on your neck and back and forehead at once. At first, I thought maybe I did something to trigger these aches independent of migraine—did I sleep the wrong way? Has all this driving caught up with me? Am I too stressed out and tense? All of these considerations crossed my mind, but oddly enough the worst pain seemed to coincide with that familiar behind the eye throbbing I usually have at the start of a bad attack.

The unstable Jenga game

I have written before about what it is like to deal with other illnesses along with migraine at once. Many folks in the community know that migraine can be overwhelming on its own, but the pain and exhaustion that builds when we are also dealing with other pain can be enormous. Lately I have felt like my body is one giant Jenga game, and each ache and pain is a block being pulled from the tower, threatening to topple the whole thing over. I am finding that the neck and back pain are particularly poignant, perhaps because they seem so persistent.

Neck pain interfering with driving

This pain has been both disheartening and dangerous: on a particularly bad day recently while driving, I felt like I lost mobility in my neck altogether and was having trouble seeing due to the throbbing in my head, and I found myself unable to turn my head fully to see out of my side mirror with ease. After a few close calls of trying to switch lanes without much sight for guidance and jerking pain in my neck trying to see, I knew driving was out of the question for the rest of the day. I have felt uneasy driving with pain because it seems risky and is hard on the body.

Tried that…and that…and…yep, tried that too.

In an effort to find a moment of reprieve, I have been searching and searching for some pain relief. I’ve been recommended muscle relaxers, massages, ointments, ice packs, pain medication… nothing seems to help enough to ‘free’ me from the pain. One morning I put all of my forces on the front-lines and slathered a helping of Tiger’s Balm on my neck, cracked open two ice packs for my neck and back, took my Verapamil, tried to relax and unclench my jaw and…all that got me was a burning sensation in my eyes from the ointment and a continued painful throbbing in my head, no doubt unrelieved in part thanks to the scent trigger. Feeling unable to get through tasks and move through my day with migraine is often both a physical and mental fortitude arena, but the added neck and back pain really has heightened the physical limitation I feel.

This pain has been going on for about two weeks now and I am feeling so done with it! I am used to being in pain often, but I’ve been feeling like these particular kinds of symptoms are exceptionally hard to bear.

Do you experience neck or back pain as symptoms of your migraines? How do you find relief? Let’s discuss in the comments!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • tjbtaylor9
    3 months ago

    That’s the worst part of chronic migraine for me too. I’m getting the Botox migraine protocol plus Botox for dystonia and I’m praying the combination works. A hint for dealing; Kindle unlimited audio books, books with free narration you can listen to while you are trying to sleep and sleeping semi- upright in a recliner.

  • q2gphw
    2 months ago

    I have chronic migraines with neck diatonic and fibromyalgia. I have been getting Botox injections in my neck and shoulders for over 5 years and they are a life saver. My migraines and neck pain are very rare now, it has calmed my migraines down to tolerable. Every once in a while I have bad months where the Botox injections don’t work as well, but for the most part they have saved my life.

  • Kelly
    3 months ago

    Massage really helps and I use yoga balls and a yoga block to rest my head on. It can be painful while doing but helps tremendously.

  • glassmind
    3 months ago

    I second otjers suggestions for soothing aromatherapy also.

    And do have your dr check your neck to rule out bone or nerve injury.

  • glassmind
    3 months ago

    Your body is a jenga game. It’s all connected and once one thing is out of place everything else suffers in trying to compensate. This can be worse if you have a condition like arthritis or ehlers danlos among others.

    I have both of those btw.

    But aside from those, I find all the lying around with a migraine does cause me pain. The body is meant to move.

    Amd lack of movement also makes it hard to sleep. I’m simultaneously exausted from the migraine, but not exausted from a lavk of exercise.

    Aaaaand, neck pain is a migraine symptom for me aside from the comorbid conditions and the postural (too much lying) issue.

    The only “relief” I find is in balancing the needs of all tjese conditions. I do prone exercises while in bed when I am able. Get mini exercise moments throughout the day on non-migraine days. And do balance and strengthening yoga for the arthritis, eds, and general neck tension.

    I was recently advised by my doctor to take my klonopin daily on a temporary basis to treat a bout of extreme neck tension which froze my mobility and lead to arm numbness. I already had the prescription to treat migraine. It works as a muscle relaxer to some extent, but is so tranquilizing I avoid taking it.

    I cannot take traditional muscle relaxers due to a heart condition.

    Otherwise I seek as many ergonomic aids as possible. Coupled with prone-induced vertigo, I often ride out a migraine at an incline instead and this seems better for my neck sometimes also.

    I do not use regular bed pillows. They make my neck pain worse. I use a small travel sized “decorative” pillow. It fits my stature and neck better than anything I have found.

    For back pain caused by being in bed woth migraine, I also do prone stretches which help and go for a walk as soon as I can. Exaccerbating arm swing in a gentle loose “bouncy” way (like a carefree child walks) helps with my neck amd shoulder tension also.

    Maybe one of these tips will help you.

    Wishing you pain-free days! Hugs

  • glassmind
    3 months ago

    And I find accupunture, sauna and hot tub helpful for neck and back pain. Heat therapy works for me, which is tough in summer, but I’ll get a warm compress or heat wrap and put it on.

  • Bunny01
    3 months ago

    It’s essential to get very still. Dark, cool room, ice pack, and puke bucket at the ready because by then the migraine is out of control. I have phenergan suppositories for the nausea because you know that throwing up only makes the pain worse!

  • nanak
    3 months ago

    I wish I could give you an answer. You could be writing about me! I read and felt kinship, anger and tears. I am SO frustrated! Chiropractor seems to help but slowly it returns. I know I have arthritis in my neck and suspect that may be it. But, what can they do? I also have Botox. Interested in other’s stories.

  • cher86
    3 months ago

    I suffer from heavy neck and upper back pain with my migraines. My neck always sounds like rice crispy. I try to stay a head of it with epsom salt baths, cannabis, cannabis topical, and ibu. Most meds give me horrible side effects.

  • RoxanneC
    3 months ago

    I just started migraine at age 60. I suffered nonstop pain for more than a year. I am up for trying anything to relieve the pain. I’ve tried 12 different drug therapies, Botox and now am on Aimovig. The only relief from the neck pain was an occipital nerve block. I do recommend migraine massage. My therapist uses cold stone therapy, it’s a wonderful way to get relaxed. I always have a good night’s sleep after a treatment. I can only afford to see her once a month. Good luck with your search.

  • ni3ci
    3 months ago

    I can highly recommend using heat like a lavender bag. Mine goes in microwave for 2 mins. I even sleep on my front with the hottie on my neck and shoulders to help fall asleep. Also cbd oil and wearing an aromatherapy bracelet with migraine oil, smells of lavender and spearmint. All have helped reduce the intensity of the pain in my head, neck and back and become part of my everyday routine, id be lost without them now. Hope you find something that helps

  • stephan9121
    3 months ago

    For 20 + years I suffered agonizing pain with horrific chronic migraines. 3-4 day never ending bouts. 3-4 times per month. In excess of 15 migraines per month. Some months 22 days some months 26 days. Sometimes I felt as if I would lose my life. In 2006 was the first time I got the courage to ask a doctor for pain relief. His answer to me was we do not give pain medication to migraineuers because of chances for addiction. I took the answer as gospel and then I thought wait a minute. I am being compiled/stereotyped into a group of addiction. But I suffered for many more years. I had emergency room visits where they gave me Benadryl intravenously with no relief other than making me sleepy. I can’t take many medications because I am anaphylactic to aspirin, ibuprofen and nsaids. Which, by the way, I find out is a cry of many addicts. However, mine is legit with specialists who have tested me and told me to NEVER, EVER let anyone give you anything for inflammation. To top everything off I have leukocytastic vasculitis which is inflammation of the blood vessels. I have to “work around” medications to keep it under control. In 2012 I had to have surgery on my shoulder and they gave me pain medication. I managed it well and was on the medication longer than usual because I had a frozen shoulder. What I found out from that time on pain medication was I finally found relief also for my migraines with opioids. I was on a mission and I was not about to give up. There should be absolutely NO REASON, what so ever that a person with chronic migraines has to suffer in agony. I’ve been treated HORRIFICALLY by physicians who I have tried to talk with responsibly about pain medications. I was finally given a low dose hydrocodone which did very little for the pain but at least it was something. Again, every refill, every visit I was treated with disrespect, as if I were taking them for reasons other than migraine. I was taking them PRECISELY as prescribed. I know all too well about withdrawals, cravings in my quest for adequate pain relief. I have also leaned how to deal with those cravings and mild withdrawals and NEVER DID I go to another facility to gain more medication for relief of those withdrawals. I have gone into this with much research under my belt. I know, how addictive opioids are and I also know that a person taking them has to be ever mindful of them. Responsibility is key. Education is key. I finally found acceptance and RELIEF After 22 years of utter and complete agony at a reputable and professional pain management clinic. They give me the dosage I need to keep my migraine pain at bay. I have my life back. No more Years of missed birthday parties, weddings, friends get Together’s. Years of feeling less than human and not living life – GONE. No more writhing in pain day after day, night after night with ice packs on my head and neck. I take opioids and I do it responsibly. I see negativity on this site against opioids for migraine but I am here to tell you, they changed my life for the better. My family supports me, all of my family knows I take them. I will not hide any longer and be locked in a hell of no relief from migraines. I am not a part of the opioid epidemic I am living proof that opioids can bring a ray of hope to someone who has chronic migraine. I hope others can learn to be responsible and find relief.

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your experience so honestly, stephan9121. I’m so glad after searching and fighting within the system, you have found and gained access to a treatment that is helping you manage your symptoms. The opioid crisis is a struggle for many in the community who have used narcotic medication responsibly for migraine management and now face incredible obstacles for obtaining it. I can hear what joy you feel in the reduction of your migraine days and ability to fully engage and enjoy life! I hope you continue feeling well! Wishing you a gentle day. ~Allyson (Migraine.com team)

  • StefD
    3 months ago

    I discovered by happenstance that the osteoarthritis in my spine, yes full spinal involvement, is a significant contributor to increased migraine pain. Currently, I’m doing Botox blocks piggy backed with C-spine & orbital nerve ablations. The nerve ablations are not for the “faint of heart” but it does lessen the intensity of my sever episodes. The down side is the ablations can only happen every 6 months and the nerves in my next are very good at regenerating at about 4.5 months. Currently I’m 3 weeks out from repeating the neck ablations and in a bad cycle despite fresh Botox blocks. So it’s not a perfect system.

  • Sportsfan
    3 months ago

    I have had neck pain/spams and severe eye pain all on one side associated with some migraines and it was my neurologist who figured out that in my case it was occipital nerve pain. I have been treated with occipital nerve steroid blocks and the injections have helped. Talk with your doctor. I hope you find some relief.

  • DamselflyStudio
    3 months ago

    I have intracranial hypertension, so discerning whether my symptoms are migraine or my shunt not working properly and having high or low pressure headaches is quite a challenge. The symptoms are very similar. I get pain over my right eye with migraine, and a high pressure headache because my shunt is on the right side of my head. Low pressure symptoms present as pain at the back of my neck at the base of the skull. Pain behind the eyes, sensitivity to light…you guessed it, symptoms of a pressure change. I watch the barometer like a hawk. I know that when the barometer goes above 29.9 I need to back off a dose off Lyrica, since it causes me to retain fluid. When the barometer is below 28.5, I might as well wish for an IV of espresso . Brain fog…Sudaphed, Zantac. My freezer is well stocked with ice packs. I also use Charlotte’s Web CBD 50mg CBD oil. It has done wonders to reduce anxiety, depression and help improve the effectiveness of my pain medication. I also have had decompression surgery for Chiari Malformation. I have a cyst in my spinal cord known as Syringomyelia.

    I do urge anyone who has had chronic base of skull neck pain, brain fog, aphasia, ataxia, headaches with pain around the eyes with loss of vision to have a full brain and cervical MRI to rule out Chiari Malformation. The symptoms are too similar to let go. IMO

  • kellikens
    3 months ago

    I have something called an Ice Kap. It’s a tight fitting cap with cold packs in it that also reaches the back of my neck. It does help when I have a migraine, although it doesn’t totally relieve pain.

  • anaenlima
    3 months ago

    Many days, neck and back pain precede my migraine. I can’t lie down because that makes all the pain worse. Massage is a killer. Muscle relaxants don’t work. So I take sumatriptan combined with naproxen and pray the pain goes away. Mostly it does but it may come back a few hours later and the cycle gets repeated for three or four days until the next time. I have tried ice, heat, gels, hormones, gentle exercise… It has a life of its own and it can happen two or three times a month.

  • georgejanie1
    3 months ago

    I have regular neck/back pain also and have found that sleeping on a little travel pillow helps, by keeping my neck straight. I buy them at Walmart in the pillow section.

  • Mare
    3 months ago

    I would try CBD Lotion on your temples, neck and back. I have had great luck with it eliminating any daily aches and chronic MS pain for many hours and during a migraine, to at least lessen the intensity significantly. Imbue Botanicals is 3rd party independent lab each batch tested (can be expensive but worth it). This is the one I would at least try.

  • lizspags1
    3 months ago

    I have used Maxalt wafers for the past 16 years. They gave me my life back. Very little time off work.
    As soon as I feel the sore neck, and cannot face tea with milk… I know a migraine is brewing.
    One wafer. I lie on the bed with a hot water bottle behind my neck, and 2 hours later I am ready to go. Usually my brain is still foggy, but migraine symptoms are bearable.

  • yankinchino
    3 months ago

    Would you please provide details about the Zija products you are using? Thank you.

  • yankinchino
    3 months ago

    I feel for you. I also have trouble relaxing my neck enough to find a comfortable position for sleep. Sometimes I just can’t whether I have a headache or not. I have cervical disc disorder, age related arthritis and spasmodic torticollis all affecting my neck. I get as many neck aches as headaches. I often wake up with a neck ache which almost always turns into a migraine.
    I have found that Flexeril (muscle relaxer) helps with neck ache and or tension combined with Tylenol Extra Strength prior to bed or during waking hours. If a migraine begins I must use Naratriptan. This usually provides relief.
    Some days nothing works. Those are usually the really BAD days. Tomorrow I am trying Botox injections for the first time.
    I hope you find some relief. Keep the faith 🙂

  • BreRam
    3 months ago

    Half of a Flexeril and a NSAID pill does the trick for me, I find relief within 2 hours but the Flexeril knocks me out. I need something that it will work during the day without the side effect of getting me drowsy. Any suggestions?

  • marla weil
    3 months ago

    I have all of it. Really painful neck pain (mostly right side, extending to shoulder, back of neck) and into head. Only thing that works for me is Claritin D if it is bad enough WITH also migraine pill- the pseudoephrine I guess constricts blood vessels, but I have to make sure I take it 8am or before since it lasts 12+ hours and then I cant sleep.. I also use CBD oil- best is from Lord Byron, and magnesium baths. This is my life 🙂

  • Idahokid
    3 months ago

    Imitrex has worked for me for the past 24 years to get rid of the neck and body pain, plus the horrible headache that accompanies a migraine attack. I also use CBD oil and a bunch of essential oils on my body to lessen the pain and help to relax the muscles. ♡

  • javt
    3 months ago

    For me ice is the enemy, I need heat. I also “should” (get lazy here) keep my neck limber with the side turns I learned in PT and do gentle chin tucks when in pain. I’ve learned I watch things where I have to look up, for example no sitting up front in the theater.

  • Beth W
    3 months ago

    I have had chronic migraines really bad the last 10-15 yrs of my life… missed so much work, life events & social gatherings because I was in bed with a migraine. Last year I started the Aimovig shots which have helped I was down to 10 migraines… However in the last 2 months I’ve started using Zija – 3 step nutrition product that contains Moringa Olifera which is full of ALL NATURAL anti inflammatories… I’ve only had 3 migraines in 8 weeks… I also have fibromyalgia and it’s improved as well. A lot more energy & cant explain how much this is changing my life!!!

  • yankinchino
    3 months ago

    Would you please provide details about the Zija products you are using? This is for myself and my son who has Fibro too. Thank you.

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    3 months ago

    Beth W, I’m glad you have found something that is helping you feel well! Thank you for sharing your experience with the community. Wishing you a gentle day. ~Allyson (Migraine.com team)

  • Theresa
    3 months ago

    Yes and yes. At times my right big toe even hurts. I had a doctor who said it doesn’t work like that and my disability got ended.
    I now get shots in my neck and we burn the nerves as well. Misery.

  • Mary33
    3 months ago

    This is the same reason I have migraines, I currently use prescription Lidocaine patches 5% and cut them up into pieces and place them where I need them on my neck. I think driving to and from work and sleeping during the night a certain way contributes to the pain. If I can get the knots massaged out, the pain will subside as well as my migraine. Unfortunately I get all the other symptoms as well, auras, nausea, ect. I take Topamax 50mg daily which has always helped greatly with prevention. I recently tried to wean down on Topamax with the sprinkle 15mg and it worked great with no withdrawal symptoms. But started to have more pain in my neck so I went back the 50 mg.

  • KathyinPain
    3 months ago

    I always have neck and back pain that gets much worse with migraine. Aspercream with lidocaine numbs it with no smell. Then I add a heating pad (or 2). That with the muscle relaxers mean I actually get to sleep. For some reason ice makes my neck pain worse. I hope you feel better. PS You can get Aspercream in a rollon or a spray. Both work great.

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