Reader's Mail: Are Arthritis and Headache Connected?

Q. Is there a connection between arthritis and a constant headache? I have a constant headache behind my eyes and in the back of my neck. It has gotten so much worse as I’ve gotten older and I’ve had more trouble with arthritis.

A. The correct answer is yes, no, or maybe so.  Headache and neck pain are often woven together.  We know that individuals with migraine have more neck pain and that individuals with neck pain have more migraine.  We also know the neck itself can be a source of headache with a typical referral pattern of the pain that can include the areas behind the eyes.  So a possible explanation for your complaint may be that you have a primary headache (migraine or tension-type) and the neck pain (accelerated by arthritis) is making it worse.

I would recommend seeing a Headache for Physical Medicine specialist to be evaluated.  A good resource that has helped many of my patients with neck pain and headache is the book Trigger Point Therapy for Headaches and Migraine by Valerie DeLaune

However, I would caution about and over reliance on physical changes typically associated with aging (such as arthritis) as the only explanation for pain.  Dr. John Sarno’s book The Mindbody Prescription offers a good discussion of the brain and pain.



Duren Michael Ready, MD FAHS

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