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Guide to Cervicogenic headache

What is a Cervicogenic headache?

Half of the population will have some type of headache in their lifetime. About 15-25% of all headaches are referred from the cervical spine (neck) and are classified as “Cervicogenic”.

Cervicogenic headache is a pain that develops in the neck but is felt in the head. These headaches are considered secondary headaches because they are thought to be caused by an underlying condition such as injuries to the neck or infections.

What causes a Cervicogenic headache?

As mentioned above these headaches are as a result of dysfunction and injury to the neck. Some people may develop Cervicogenic headaches as a result of their jobs which require them to be seated for prolonged periods which strains their neck muscles and joints.

How is a Cervicogenic headache diagnosed?

Patients tend to usually present with tender neck and stiffness. It is usually one-sided but, in some cases, can occur on both sides of the head. They develop on one side of the neck, starting from the back of the head and radiate towards the front. Some of the other symptoms you may present with are; a reduction in the movement of your neck, pain and stiffness of the neck, pain around the eyes, nausea, blurred vision and possible pain in the shoulder or arm on one side.

Due to there being several different types of headaches, it is hard to distinguish if you truly have a Cervicogenic headache. Rest assured our practitioners are well equipped to perform a full examination. They will want to know as much detail as possible regarding the characteristics of the headaches and how it presents as this will help them narrow down the different types of headaches you may have.

How is a Cervicogenic headache treated?

Cervicogenic headaches respond well to cervical manipulations that are carried out by chiropractors or osteopaths, however, that is not the only treatment modality available. The practitioner will perform various treatment modalities such as myofascial trigger point techniques on tight muscles that are known to reproduce headaches and specific stretching techniques. They will also advise you on the appropriate icing/heat application as well as advice related to preventing any future episode and posture management.

Cervicogenic headaches have a good prognosis when it comes to its treatment, however, with coinciding underlying chronic conditions prognosis, is somewhat guarded.

References

Stovner LJ, Hagen K, Jensen R, Katsarava Z, Lipton RB, Scher AI, Steiner TJ, Zwart JA. The global burden of headache: a documentation of headache prevalence and disability worldwide. Cephalalgia. 2007 Mar;27(3):193-210. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-2982.2007.01288.x

Stovner LJ, Hagen K, Jensen R, Katsarava Z, Lipton RB, Scher AI, Steiner TJ, Zwart JA. The global burden of headache: a documentation of headache prevalence and disability worldwide. Cephalalgia. 2007 Mar;27(3):193-210. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-2982.2007.01288.x

Antonaci F, Sjaastad O. Cervicogenic headache: a real headache. Current neurology and neuroscience reports. 2011 Apr 1;11(2):149-55. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11910-010-0164-9

Falla DL, Jull GA, Hodges PW. Patients with neck pain demonstrate reduced electromyographic activity of the deep cervical flexor muscles during performance of the craniocervical flexion test. Spine. 2004 Oct 1;29(19):2108-14. https://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2004/10010/Patients_With_Neck_Pain_Demonstrate_Reduced.5.aspx

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