By Andrea Rich – Physiotherapist
What is a Cervicogenic headache?
Cervicogenic headache is a headache that develops from the upper cervical joints in the neck referring pain into regions of the head. Common symptoms are pain on one side of the head or face, neck and/or shoulder pain and stiffness, and worsening headache after prolonged or certain postures.
How can a headache be coming from my neck?
The first 3 vertebrae (C1, C2, C3) in the neck have nerves that can send pain signals to the head. Often this pain is at the back of the head or base of the skull, and in the forehead/temples and behind the eyes. Many things can increase the sensitivity in the upper neck that refers pain into the head. This can be due to an injury or trauma to the neck, whiplash or strain, muscles spasm in the neck or shoulder muscles, stiff or inflamed neck joints.
- Signs that your headache might be coming from your neck
- Headache that is dominant on one side
- Neck or shoulder pain that comes on at the same time as the headache
- Headache comes on after neck movements or postures (sometimes a while after the activity)
- Previous injury or trauma to your neck such as a whiplash, around the time the headaches started
- Headache that is worse in the morning (likely related to sleeping position/pillows)
- Headache that is worse at the end of the day
It is important to check in with your GP about your headaches, to ensure that your headaches don’t
have another cause.
What can physiotherapy do to fix your headache?
Cervicogenic headaches are often responsive to physiotherapy treatment and we see great relief
with methods including manual therapy and exercise-based treatments.
Our Physiotherapists can assess what is causing your cervicogenic headaches and determine if there
is any stiffness in the neck or upper back, look at muscle strength and stability as well as posture and
alignment. We can use certain manual therapy techniques to loosen tight muscles and stiff joints as
well as provide you with certain exercises you can do at home to regain movements, strengthen
muscles and avoid postures that bring on your headache.