Cervicogenic Headaches: Your headaches might be coming from your neck

Neck related headaches, often referred to as cervicogenic headaches, are quoted as accounting for up to 20% of all chronic headaches.  There are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of suffering from cervicogenic headaches.  Things such as previous neck injuries and trauma (eg. whiplash), occupational demands, and postural loads are all possible factors.   

What are Cervicogenic Headaches?
Cervicogenic headaches are a distinct type of headache that originates from the neck or cervical spine. Unlike tension headaches or migraines, cervicogenic headaches are specifically linked to dysfunction or abnormalities in the neck. The pain is often felt on one side of the head and may be accompanied by neck pain or stiffness.  The headache might also be triggered by movements of the neck. 

How They Differ from Other Headaches:
Distinguishing cervicogenic headaches from other types is crucial for effective treatment. Tension headaches typically result from stress or muscle tension, while migraines are often associated with neurological factors. Cervicogenic headaches, on the other hand, stem from structural issues in the neck such as muscle imbalances, or joint dysfunction.

How Physiotherapy Helps:
Physiotherapy plays a pivotal role in alleviating cervicogenic headaches by addressing the underlying musculoskeletal causes. Physiotherapists employ a variety of techniques, including:

a. Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques to manipulate and mobilise the neck joints, reducing pain and improving mobility.

b. Exercise Prescription: Tailored exercises to strengthen and stretch specific muscles, correcting imbalances and improving posture.

c. Posture Education: Educating patients on proper ergonomics and posture to prevent recurring issues.

d. Soft Tissue Mobilisation: Techniques such as massage or myofascial release to address tight or tense muscles in the neck.

How Long Patients Typically Take to Get Relief:
The duration for relief varies from patient to patient, depending on the severity of the condition, adherence to treatment plans, and individual response to therapy. Some patients experience significant improvement after a few sessions, while others may require a more extended period for lasting relief.

How to Prevent Headaches from Returning:
To prevent the recurrence of cervicogenic headaches, patients are encouraged to:

a. Follow Exercise Programs: Consistently engage in prescribed exercises to maintain neck strength and flexibility.

b. Adopt Healthy Habits: Incorporate proper posture and ergonomic practices in daily activities, especially during prolonged periods of sitting or working.

c. Manage Stress: Practise stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to minimise tension-related triggers.

d. Regular Physiotherapy Check-ups: Periodic visits to a physiotherapist for assessment and adjustments can help identify and address potential issues before they escalate.

At Out of the Box Physio, we understand the impact cervicogenic headaches can have on your life. Through personalised physiotherapy interventions, we aim to not only relieve your immediate pain but also provide you with the tools to prevent future headaches. Take the first step towards a headache-free life by scheduling a consultation with our experienced physiotherapists. Your journey to lasting relief starts here.