Are Chronic Headaches and Back Pain Linked?

Are Chronic Headaches and Back Pain Linked?

It seems like some people just can’t get a break. Researchers are discovering that people who have chronic headaches are also more likely to have chronic low back pain.

Research published in July in the Journal of Headache and Pain looked at 14 studies from around the world—studies from Denmark, the United States, Germany, Iran, Tunisia, the UK and Qatar—that had examined a link between headache and low back pain. 

Some of the studies were small—just 88 participants—while other were quite large. One international study included over 404,000 people. The ages of people in the various studies ranged from 9.8 to 102.

The researchers found a definite link between chronic headache and chronic low back pain: people with one of the disorders were twice as likely to have the other when compared with people who didn’t have either chronic headaches or chronic back pain.

“A consistent positive association between headache and low back pain was found,” the researchers wrote. “This is consistent across countries, populations, and study design but variable in magnitude.”

For the study, chronic headache was having a headache at least 15 days a month for more than three months. Chronic low back pain was defined as pain that last more than 3 months and occurs between the bottom of the rib cage and the creases of the buttocks. 

The researchers, from UK-based Warwick Medical School, aren’t sure why the two problems are more likely to occur together. 

“There may be something in the relationship between how people react to the pain, making some people more sensitive to both the physical causes of the headache, particularly migraine, and the physical causes in the back, and how the body reacts to that and how you become disabled by it,” Warwick Professor Martin Underwood said in a news release.

“There may also be more fundamental ways in how the brain interprets pain signals, so the same amount of input into the brain may be felt differently by different people,” Underwood said.

The researchers hope future studies will provide better understanding of what links the two types of pain and possibly pave the way for more effective treatments.

If chronic pain is keeping you from doing the things you want, it’s time to schedule an appointment at Southwest Spine and Pain Center. With multiple locations across the state of Utah, the pain management specialists at Southwest Spine and Pain Center are dedicated to helping those who suffer from chronic pain live the life they want to. To schedule an appointment, visit our locations tab!

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.