Cervicogenic Headaches

whatamahuh headache?

A cervicogenic headache is a steady, non-throbbing pain at the back and base of the skull, sometimes extending downward into the neck and between the shoulder blades. Pain may be felt behind the brow and forehead, even though the problem originates from the cervical spine. Initially, pain may begin intermittently, spread to one side (unilateral), and become almost continuous. Furthermore, pain can be exacerbated by neck movement or a particular neck position (eg, eyes focused on a computer monitor). They mimic migraine headaches, but they are not the same.

The pain from a cervicogenic headache is referred pain: pain perceived as occurring in a part of the body other than its true source, perceived in the head from a source in the neck. It is a secondary headache, which means that it is caused by another illness or physical issue.

The cause of a cervicogenic headache is often caused by excessive stress to the neck. The headache may result from cervical osteoarthritis (spondylosis), a damaged disc, or whiplash-type movement that irritates or compresses a cervical nerve. The neck's bony structures (eg, facet joints) and its soft tissues (eg, muscles) can contribute to the development of a cervicogenic headache.

Most cervicogenic headaches get better with non-invasive treatments and anti-inflammatories. The non-invasive treatments for cervicogenic headaches include:

  • Spinal manipulation or other manual therapies
  • Massage
  • Behavioral approaches (eg, biofeedback)
  • Acupuncture
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories
  • Using the right pillow and mattress

And this is one of the rare times you shouldn't try to exercise your neck - at least not without the help of a professional. The wrong movement can exacerbate the condition.

Make a commitment to your health today.

Stay well adjusted,

Dr. Dan Kammer