15-20% of headaches are cervicogenic, meaning that they originate from a neck condition. The pain begins in the neck and the back of the head and radiates towards the front or behind the eye. It may be confused with migraine, cluster or tension headaches, as both of them can cause pain in the neck. It is more common in females and may be menstrual related.
Pain on one side of the head
Pain and stiffness of the neck
Pain around the eyes
Head pain that is triggered by certain neck movements or sustained positions
Reduced range of motion in the neck
Cervicogenic headache is caused by irritation of any joint, muscle or disc innervated by spinal nerves C1, C2 and C3.
Occupations that involve static loading of the neck such as hair stylists, manual labours, drivers and office workers may be more prone to develop cervicogenic headaches.
Medical conditions that can cause cervicogenic headaches include:
Pain localised in the neck and occiput, which can be spread to other areas in the head such as forehead, orbital region, temples, ears usually unilaterally.
Pain aggravated by specific neck movements
Resistance or limitation of passive neck movements
Medications that treat cervicogenic headache include :
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), such as aspirin or ibuprofen
Physical therapy management :
Cervical spine manipulation or management
C1-C2 SNAGs (Sustained Natural Apophyseal Glides)
Strengthening exercises including deep neck flexors and upper quarter muscle
Heat pack for 20mins at the base of the head and neck
Upper back stretches/mobility at regular intervals through the day
Self-SNAGs (Sustained Natural Apophyseal Glides)
Page, P. (2011) Cervicogenic Headaches: an evidence-led approach to clinical management. International Journal of Sports Physiotherapy. 6(3): 254–266.