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  • Gen Health Team

CERVICOGENIC (NECK) HEADACHE

What is a cervicogenic (neck) headache?

This is simply another name for a headache that originates from the neck due to damage or dysfunction its components. The structures in our neck include bones, facet joints, ligaments and discs. Particular neck movements or sustained postures can put stress on these structures and over time can cause irritation. When this occurs, the pain is referred to the head causing a headache.

Specific causes of cervicogenic headaches

Any activity that places excessive stress on the upper joints of the neck can lead to such headaches. This can be caused traumatically (think Whiplash or heavy lifting) or build up over time.

Other causes include:

  • Repetitive activities (continuous rotation)

  • Poor posture (slouching)

  • Lifting or carrying heavy objects

  • Working at a computer with incorrect desk set up

  • Sitting on the couch and looking at a laptop/Ipad/screen

Signs and Symptoms

Dizziness, photophobia (sensitivity to light), phonophobia (sensitivity to sound) and a strong headache.

Other common symptoms of Cervicogenic (neck) headaches include:

Gradual onset of neck pain

Pain in neck waking up the day after an activity

Constant dull aching at the back of the head, behind the eye or less commonly on the top of the head

Pain is usually on one side

Difficulty turning neck

Pain, pins and needles or numbness into the shoulders, arms, hands or chest region

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

Decreased concentration

Treatment for cervicogenic (neck) headaches

Diagnosis and treatment for these headaches can be by a physiotherapist. It will include soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, exercise therapy (including Reformer Physiotherapy – previously known as Clinical Pilates) and addressing contributing factors such as poor posture and poor workstation set up. Most patients with this presentation have a quick, full recovery with the right treatment and advice.