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What is a Cervicogenic Headache?

Cervicogenic headache is a chronic form of headache which is associated with problems with the neck region such as a lack of mobility or flexibility. The cause of such headaches is thought to be due to the nerves supplying sensation to the head being affected. These nerves stem from the upper neck region thus any disturbances or abnormalities to this region leads to referred pain to the head.

How do I know if I have a cervicogenic headache?

Signs and symptoms of a cervicogenic headache may include:

  • Headache which is dominantly on one side of the head and does not shift sides
  • The headache is may be associated with a concurrent onset of a same-sided neck pain
  • Neck movements can cause symptoms to be worse
  • Pain present in the neck
  • Loss of movement in the neck
  • General tightness on the same side of the neck
  • Tenderness over the upper region of the neck

How is a cervicogenic headache diagnosed and managed?

It is usually diagnosed through a thorough history taken by a Doctor or Physiotherapist. Other forms of headaches must be excluded such as tension type headaches and migraines. If other pathologies are suspected, our Physiotherapist will refer you on to a Spine specialist for further consultations but cases like these are usually managed conservatively.

How can Physiotherapy help?

The Physiotherapist will carry out an assessment of your neck region to determine what are the movements which cause the headache to be triggered. This would normally include an examination of your movement postures, a check on the range of motion of your neck as well as the strength and flexibility of the surrounding muscles.

Treatment may include but is not limited to:

  • Advise and education pertaining to your condition
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Movement re-education
  • Personalised home exercise program
  • Heat therapy
  • Joint mobilisation
  • Manual traction
  • Electrotherapy
  • Ultrasound therapy

Are cervicogenic headaches serious?

No they are generally not. However they can potentially progress to have more serious symptoms or what you initially think is a cervicogenic headache might actually be due to something else such as a tumour or an arterial problem. Hence, whenever you have sudden severe headaches, always visit your medical practitioner to get it diagnosed.

Should I try neck exercises online?

If you are experiencing cervicogenic headaches, the suggestion is that you would have your condition assessed before trying any online exercises to determine if the exercises are appropriate for your condition. Visiting a Physiotherapist will also ensure that you are properly looked after each step of the way to your recovery.