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.

Can you move your neck well?

In today's fast-paced world, where digital devices and sedentary lifestyles have become the norm, neck pain has emerged as a prevalent issue affecting countless individuals. Whether it's due to long hours spent hunched over a computer screen, excessive smartphone use, or poor posture, neck pain has become an unwelcome companion for many. One key factor that often goes overlooked in understanding and managing neck pain is the correlation between neck range of motion and the discomfort experienced. In this blog post, we'll delve into the fascinating connection between neck range of motion and neck pain, shedding light on how helping your neck to move better can help reduce (and remove) your neck pain.

Before we explore the connection, let's clarify what neck range of motion entails. In simple terms, neck range of motion refers to the degree and direction to which an individual can move their neck comfortably. It encompasses movements such as tilting the head forward and backward, turning side to side, and tilting the head from one shoulder to the other.

How Range of Motion Affects Neck Pain
1. Muscular Imbalance: Reduced neck range of motion often stems from muscular imbalances and stiffness. Muscles that are constantly strained due to poor posture or excessive stress tend to become tight and restricted. This limits the ability of the neck to move freely, leading to discomfort and pain.

2. Joint Health: The neck is composed of numerous small joints that enable its various movements. When these joints are not used through their full range, they can become stiff, leading to decreased flexibility and pain. Regular movement maintains joint health and reduces the risk of pain.

3. Postural Alignment: A significant contributor to neck pain is poor posture. When the head is constantly held in a forward position, it places undue stress on the neck muscles and ligaments. This can lead to chronic pain as well as limitations in range of motion.

4. Nerve Irritation: Limited neck mobility can sometimes result in nerve irritation. When nerves are compressed or pinched due to restricted movement, it can lead to radiating pain, tingling, or numbness in the neck and even down the arms.

Addressing the Issue: The Role of Physiotherapy
Through targeted exercises, manual therapy, and education, physiotherapists can guide individuals toward a healthier neck and improved quality of life.

Stretching and Strengthening: Physiotherapists design tailored stretching and strengthening exercises to improve muscle flexibility and balance. This promotes a wider range of motion while reducing muscular tension that contributes to pain.

Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques like joint mobilization and soft tissue manipulation can help restore normal joint mechanics and alleviate muscular tightness. These therapies can significantly improve neck mobility and comfort.

Posture Education: Physiotherapists educate patients about proper posture during daily activities, whether sitting at a desk, using a smartphone, or lifting objects. These guidelines minimize stress on the neck and prevent pain from recurring.

Pain Management Strategies: Physiotherapists teach pain management techniques such as relaxation exercises, heat or cold therapy, and ergonomic adjustments. These strategies help individuals manage and reduce pain during their recovery.

So if you have neck pain, the good news is that physiotherapy offers effective solutions to address these issues. By working with a skilled physiotherapist and adopting recommended exercises and lifestyle changes, individuals can regain a fuller range of motion, alleviate pain, and prevent future discomfort. Remember, a pain-free neck leads to a more comfortable and productive life.