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  • Writer's pictureSuyi the physio

Cervicogenic headache

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

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

  • Jaw pain

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:

  • Tumours

  • Fractures

  • Infections

  • Arthritis

  • Whiplash


  1. 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.

  2. Pain aggravated by specific neck movements

  3. Resistance or limitation of passive neck movements


Medications that treat cervicogenic headache include :

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), such as aspirin or ibuprofen

  • Muscle relaxers

  • Antidepressants

Physical therapy management :

  • Cervical spine manipulation or management

  • C1-C2 SNAGs (Sustained Natural Apophyseal Glides)

  • Strengthening exercises including deep neck flexors and upper quadrant muscles

Home remedies:

  • 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.

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