Cervicogenic headache

Headache
Cervicogenic headache is a very common type of headache and has massive implications on health and quality of life. It has similar symptoms to migraine but it is not to be mistaken with migraine. Cervicogenic headache is characterized by

  • one sided pounding headache which extends from the base of the head to the back of the eyes.
  • advances to the side of forehead area – this is the most frequently the main site of pain
  • can be accompanied by one sided arm discomfort
  • reduced range of motion in the neck

The name cervical (neck) and genic (from) suggests that this type of headache is a referred pain which stems from the neck. This condition is often unrecognised due to its complex nature.Therefore,it may not respond to treatments such as medications if not diagnosed correctly.

How does this happen?

There are a lot of nerves in the neck and the head called the cranial nerves. Some of these nerves supply the neck and head region which allows us to sense touch and pain. Because the nerves are bundled together,pain that originated in the neck may be recognised as headache by our brain. This phenomenon is called referred pain. Cervicogenic headache is a condition which basically is referred pain.

What are the likely causes of this?

The number one root cause of this condition is stiffness in the base of the skull (C0/1 and C1/2 joints).This may be as a result of trauma or because of increased loading in the area due to poor posture.Overwhelmingly, posture is increasingly the main cause of this condition in our sedentary lifestyle. Poor posture (forward head and rounded shoulder) causes increased loading and shortening of the neck and shoulder muscles. This results in stiff joints in the neck which in turn irritates some of the nerves,causing referred pain to the head.

What are the best treatments for this?

Spinal Manual Therapy

Recent research has established physiotherapy as one of the best treatments for cervicogenic headache. Using Spinal Manual Therapy, therapeutic exercise and postural correction, physiotherapy aims to reduce the stiffness in the base off the skull. This method can take time to work and requires diligence from the part of the patient to work on exercises. Neck manip

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