Headaches and backaches are quite common complaints. Headaches not due to any health condition can be tension, migraine or cluster headaches while an achy back is a minor muscle strain. When a headache is accompanied by an achy back, it can oftentimes indicate an underlying medical condition.
A doctor should be consulted if the individual experiences frequent, severe headaches or backaches that do not seem to improve within 72 hours. Emergency care is required if the back pain spreads down the legs, causes tingling or weakness in the legs or accompanied by incontinence.
Primary headache with back pain
There is a possibility that the individual is suffering from a migraine, cluster or tension headache and experience back pain due to strain or poor posture. Primary headaches are triggered by highly active response of the pain-sensitive features in the head but genetics can also play role.
A migraine is an intense, throbbing headache that can last for 3 days along with visual disturbances. As for a tension headache, it occurs due to muscle tension around the head and neck. A cluster headache causes one-sided stabbing pain that can be accompanied by watery eyes and nasal congestion.
Certain activities can instigate headaches such as exercise, sex or coughing. Lack of sleep, alcohol, skipped meals, too much sleep, stress, poor posture and tight-fitting headgear can also cause headaches.
Secondary headache with back pain
A secondary headache is caused by a medical condition. This can indicate a bacterial or viral infection including influenza, encephalitis, sinusitis or meningitis. It is important to note that some of these conditions can cause backaches as well.
The headaches can be due to an injury such as a concussion. A headache can also occur along a stroke, brain tumor or aneurysm. If the individual experiences headache along with dizziness, stiff neck, vomiting or nausea as well as difficulty with seeing, walking or speaking, seek immediate medical attention.
Headache and backaches among women are classic symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or PMS. This occurs in the 2nd half of the menstrual cycle due to the fluctuating level of hormones in the body.
There is also weight gain, bloating, anxiety, depression, cramps and swollen breasts. PMS can be managed with anti-inflammatory medications, diuretics, antidepressants as well as stress reduction techniques and dietary modifications.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Headache and oftentimes backache can be considered as symptoms of alternative irritable bowel syndrome. This condition is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating and irregular bowel movement. With the alternating type, both constipation and diarrhea can occur.
It is important to note that there is a physical connection between IBS and headaches. The serotonin receptor accountable for the migraine headaches is present in a higher degree in the gut than in the brain. In addition, diarrhea is closely linked with migraine headaches. Even though there is no cure for IBS, the symptoms can be managed with the help of added soluble fiber in the diet, along with anti-diarrhea medications and other drugs.