Cervicogenic headaches FAQ
There are numerous different types of headache, ranging from the mild ones we all get from time to time to painful, debilitating conditions that can seriously impact the activities in your life.
Cervicogenic headaches are a lesser-known type of headache. Here’s what you need to know about them.
What are cervicogenic headaches?
A cervicogenic headache is a headache that originates in your cervical spine (your neck).
It’s known as a secondary headache since the headache is actually a symptom of a different condition, in this case a disorder of the bones, discs or soft tissue in your neck.
Why do cervicogenic headaches happen?
Your neck and the back of your head contain many pain-sensitive or pain-generating regions, including joints, ligaments, nerve roots, arteries and lining of your cervical spine.
Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, infections, fractures, tumours or even age-related wear-and-tear can trigger cervicogenic headaches. Other causes include a prolapsed disc, whiplash, falls or a sports injury.
What are the symptoms of cervicogenic headaches?
Symptoms of a cervicogenic headache include:
- Throbbing pain on only one side of your head or face
- A stiff neck
- Pain around your eyes
- Pain when you cough or sneeze
- Pain that worsens with certain movements.
Some people also experience additional symptoms similar to migraines, such as sensitivity to light or noise, blurry vision or tummy troubles.
What are the treatment options for cervicogenic headaches?
Cervicogenic headaches can be tricky to diagnose and manage and do tend to recur.
Treatment often involves a personally tailored mix of:
- Physiotherapy, including spine manipulation or mobilisation alongside exercises
- Steroid injections to your neck to manage disc or spine degeneration
- Nerve blocks to decrease pain
- Medications to relax muscles
- Psychological therapy to help manage the stress of living with a chronic condition.
Which exercises help with cervicogenic headaches?
Your physiotherapist may recommend a few different exercises to reduce cervicogenic headaches by strengthening your deep neck flexors and upper back muscles.
Improving your posture can also help. Your physiotherapist can assess your patterns of standing and moving and provide advice to improve your posture. That may also include improving your office setup for better ergonomics.
Your neck is a complex and delicate structure. Please see a professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment recommendations – don’t just start doing a few exercises at home or you risk worsening your symptoms.
Which professionals help with cervicogenic headaches?
Cervicogenic headaches often require input from a few different healthcare professionals, such as your:
How can The Brisbane Spine Clinic help?
We understand that cervicogenic headaches can disrupt your life and we want to help you get back on track. Our skilled physiotherapists can carefully assess your symptoms, develop a personalised treatment plan, provide hands-on therapy and teach you how to complete home-based exercises to ease your symptoms.
Book an appointment today.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances.