What are Common Causes of Back Pain and Headaches?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2019
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Common causes of back pain and headaches include muscle stress, stiff neck, and certain conditions such as fibromyalgia. In addition, there is a correlation between stress and back pain, and anxiety and back pain. By pinpointing the cause of back pain and headaches, the physician can offer an appropriate and effective treatment plan to ease symptoms. When back pain and headaches are related to muscle stress, remedies such as hot showers, heating pads, and massage can be effective. Non-drug methods of pain relief are often substantially more effective in these cases, as they can also promote relaxation. In some cases ice or cold compresses are effective at reducing back pain, especially if caused by inflammation.

Learning to manage stress is important when treating anxiety and back pain. Learning how to manage stress and anxiety without medications affords the patient the opportunity for pain relief without the negative side effects of anti-anxiety medications. Of course, when anxiety is intrusive to daily living and not manageable with other forms of treatment, medications might be recommended. Anti-anxiety medications need to be strictly monitored by the health care provider, who should be notified when side effects present themselves. If overused, serious withdrawal symptoms can occur when patients discontinue use, such as tremors, panic attacks, nausea, and vomiting.


Sometimes, physical therapy is recommended to relieve back pain and headaches. The therapist can suggest a wide range of exercises that can increase mobility, while relaxing the muscles. Physical therapy, in combination with over-the-counter pain relievers are often extremely beneficial, and frequently results in complete resolution of symptoms. In addition, over-the-counter pain relievers are generally well tolerated and do not cause significant side effects such as drowsiness and constipation that prescription pain relievers often cause.

When back pain and headaches persist, further testing is often recommended. Diagnostic imaging examinations such as MRI are often useful in diagnosing causes. Sometimes, when a herniated or slipped disc is discovered, surgery may relieve pressure and subsequent back pain. Although useful in relieving symptoms in many cases, back surgery does not guarantee that symptoms will not return. Typically, surgery is only suggested as a last resort, when back pain and headaches cause significant mobility problems.

In addition to back pain and headaches, stress can cause a stiff neck, which can impair driving ability and make dressing a challenge. By employing relaxation techniques such as massage, deep breathing, and warm baths, stress and subsequent stiff neck often improve. In addition, a daily exercise plan and healthy diet can improve the way people manage stress. Daily exercise is not only beneficial in improving mobility and strength, it has also proved successful in treating certain types of depression and anxiety.



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