What causes headache, dizziness, fatigue, and neck pain?

A headache can be debilitating, along with neck pain , dizziness, and fatigue. Numerous disorders, including migraines, tumors, or even dehydration, can cause these symptoms. Some are relatively benign, whereas others may be life threatening or extreme.

This article discusses the possible causes, along with their treatment options, of headaches with dizziness , nausea, and neck pain. We also explain tips for preventing these symptoms and include guidance about when to see a doctor.

Causes

A lady feeling dizzy

A headache with neck pain , dizziness, and fatigue can be caused for many reasons.

Cervical headache

Because of structural problems with parts of the cervical spine, including the vertebrae, disc, muscle, or spinal cord, a cervical headache is a form of long-term or chronic headache. The part of the spine that comprises the neck is the cervical spine.

Cervical spine damage can occur due to:

  • injury resulting from accidents or surgery
  • compression fractures
  • herniated disk
  • inflammation of the spinal cord
  • general neck strain due to posture issues

A cervical headache may cause pain that persists for several days, or the discomfort can come and go. Other possible symptoms include:

  • neck stiffness
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • limited neck movement

Treatment

By examining the neck and testing the spine using medical imaging methods, a doctor will normally diagnose cervical headaches.

The treatment will depend on the underlying cause, with options that include:

  • pain relievers to ease neck pain and headaches
  • physiotherapy to restore function and improve neck movement
  • surgery to correct issues with the cervical spine
  • nerve blocks to treat specific areas of pain

Migraine

A migraine is a headache with moderate or severe throbbing that occurs on one side of the head. They may cause additional symptoms as well, such as:

  • increased sensitivity to light or sounds
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting

The exact cause of migraines remains unknown. However, experts believe that the following factors may play a role:

  • changes in brain chemicals
  • changes to the nerves and blood vessels inside the brain
  • genetic factors

Some people report that certain factors can trigger their migraines, which commonly include:

  • menstruation
  • stress
  • tiredness
  • certain foods and drinks

Treatment

While there is no cure for migraines, the symptoms can be minimized by some medications, including:

  • sleeping or lying in a dark room during a migraine
  • taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • taking triptans, which help reverse brain-changes that can trigger migraines
  • taking antiemetics to help reduce nausea and vomiting

Viral gastroenteritis

The medical term for gastrointestinal tract inflammation and irritation is gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis, which develops as a result of a viral infection, is viral gastroenteritis (VG).

Many viruses can cause VG. Norovirus, which can cause a variety of symptoms, is the most common, including:

Dehydration may also result to recurrent diarrhea and vomiting. This can result in more symptoms, such as:

  • dizziness when standing up
  • dry mouth and throat
  • reduced urine

Treatment

Without medical treatment, viral gastroenteritis usually goes away on its own. And then, people will be able to take drugs to treat their diarrhea. Loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) are examples.

People can help prevent dehydration by:

  • drinking plenty of water and other clear fluids
  • drinking low-sugar fruit juices or sports drinks to help replace lost electrolytes

Contact a doctor if symptoms do not improve within a few days.

Cerebral aneurysm

An aneurysm refers to a blood vessel that has been enlarged. This happens because of a weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. An aneurysm found in the brain inside a blood vessel is known as a cerebral aneurysm.

There may not be any signs of a small cerebral aneurysm that doesn’t increase in size. Larger aneurysms can, however, place pressure on the nerves or brain tissue around them, which can cause the following symptoms:

  • pain above and behind the eye
  • changes in vision
  • a dilated pupil in the eye
  • paralysis on one side of the face
  • numbness
  • weakness

In some cases, an aneurysm may leak or rupture, which requires emergency medical attention. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • a sudden, severe, and intense headache
  • blurred or double vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • stiff neck
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • brief or prolonged loss of consciousness
  • cardiac arrest

Treatment

Not every aneurysm requires treatment, according to the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS). A doctor may recommend monitoring them for signs of growth in some cases.

To help reduce the risk of a ruptured aneurysm, NINDS recommends people take the following steps:

To minimize or cut off the blood supply to the aneurysm, some individuals may need surgery.

Stroke

A stroke is a life-threatening disease where the blood flow to part of the brain is cut off, which can lead to the death of brain cells. For the following reasons, a stroke may happen:

  • an artery that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked
  • blood vessel within the brain ruptures

A sudden and intense headache, although it is not a common symptom, may often be a warning sign of a stroke. Just 49 out of 263 individuals who suffered a stroke registered a simultaneous headache in a 2015 survey.

Besides a headache, other possible stroke symptoms include:

  • sudden numbness or weakness in a limb, or on one side of the face
  • vision problems in one or both eyes
  • difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • loss of balance
  • lack of coordination
  • difficulty walking

Treatment

A stroke is an emergency medical condition. It can result in serious brain damage or death without rapid treatment. If possible, a person showing signs of a stroke should immediately call for an ambulance. People should also watch for these signs in others and, if they suspect a stroke, seek emergency medical attention.

Treatments for strokes depend on the underlying cause. Such potential possibilities include:

  • Thrombolytics: Medications can help break up blood clots.
  • Endovascular procedure: A procedure where a surgeon guides surgical instruments through a tube inserted into a limb to repair a broken blood vessel.
  • Surgical treatment: Involves placing a metal clip around a ruptured blood vessel to reduce further bleeding.

Brain tumor

When a group of cells inside the brain multiply abnormally and uncontrollably, a brain tumor is

Depending on how quickly they develop and how likely they are to grow back after treatment, doctors classify brain tumors into grades.

Brain tumors in grades 1 and 2 are non-cancerous or benign, and slow-growing. Brain tumors in grades 3 and 4 are cancerous or malignant. These tumors may arise in the brain or may spread across the body from elsewhere. After therapy, they are fast-growing and more likely to re-occur.

Symptoms of a brain tumor depend partly on the area of the brain they affect. Some symptoms that are typical include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • seizures
  • persistent nausea
  • vomiting
  • drowsiness and fatigue
  • progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • problems with speech, vision, or memory
  • changes in personality or behavior

Treatment

Brain tumor treatments depend on the following factors:

  • type, grade, and location of the tumor
  • how abnormal the cells are
  • how big the tumor is and how far it has spread
  • the person’s overall health and fitness

Some possible treatment options include:

  • steroids to reduce swelling around the tumor
  • antiepileptic medications to control seizures
  • pain medications to ease pain
  • surgery to remove the tumor
  • radiation therapy or chemotherapy to help destroy any abnormal cells

Other causes

Dehydration and anxiety are other potential causes of headaches , dizziness, neck pain, and fatigue.

Dehydration

If the body does not have enough water to work properly, dehydration occurs. This can result in the following symptoms:

  • headaches
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • tiredness
  • dry mouth, lips, and eyes
  • dark, strong-smelling urine
  • reduced urine

Anxiety

Headaches are a common symptom of anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Panic attacks can also be experienced by people with this disorder, which may cause the following physical symptoms:

  • heart palpitations
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • numbness or tingling sensations
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • nausea

Techniques to relieve cervical headaches and neck pain 

Cervical headaches signify that the cervical spine or underlying soft tissue may be damaged.

The following treatments can help people who experience them:

  • physical therapy to help regain function
  • alternative therapies, such as acupuncture
  • medications to alleviate pain
  • surgery to address serious injuries

When to see a doctor

For a diagnosis and efficient treatment, anyone with serious, chronic, or deteriorating headaches should see a physician.

The acronym SNOOP will help individuals determine when a headache may be serious, which implies:

  • Systemic symptoms:
    • fever
    • persistent vomiting
    • stiff neck
  • Neurological symptoms:
    • changes in mood, personality, or behavior
    • confusion
    • memory problems
    • seizures
    • loss of consciousness
    • weakness or paralysis
  • Onset: New or sudden onset of headaches.
  • Other conditions: A headache that develops following another condition or head injury.
  • Prior history: If the headache differs from previous headaches, or they get steadily worse, this could signal a serious issue.

Prevention 

Not all headaches can be prevented. Some strategies, however, may decrease the risk of a person contracting diseases that may cause them. They include:

  • Following a healthful lifestyle: Exercising regularly and eating a healthful and varied diet can lower the risk of stroke, aneurysm, and other life threatening medical conditions.
  • Monitoring headaches: People should keep a diary that records when their headaches occur, as well as their duration and intensity. This will allow them to detect possible headache triggers.
  • Managing anxiety and stress: Proper anxiety and stress management may help reduce headaches and other symptoms. People can try relaxation techniques, such as:
    • massage
    • exercise
    • meditation
    • talking therapy
  • Managing underlying medical conditions: It is essential that people tend to any underlying medical issues to reduce the risk of serious complications.

Summary 

A worrying combination can be headaches, dizziness , fatigue, and neck pain. These symptoms may be caused by various conditions, although some are more extreme than others. Aneurysms, stroke, and brain tumors are potentially life-threatening causes.

People who have extreme, persistent, or worsening headaches should see a doctor for diagnosis and care, as headaches can suggest serious health problems.

Anyone having signs of an aneurysm or stroke should immediately seek emergency medical treatment. The risk of severe complications, including death, may be reduced by timely treatment.

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