Cervicogenic Headaches ?
Cervicogenic headaches are a type of headache that originate from the neck and refer up into the head. They can be chronic or episodic depending on the mechanics of the neck. They generally affect people after the age of 30 years old with a common prevalence between 30-44 years old. They make up about 4% of the headache cases whilst affecting both males and females equally.
Cervicogenic headaches (CGH) are thought to originate from dysfunction occurring at the C1-3 levels of the spine (the top half of the neck vertebra). They are not related to disc bulges but rather problems arising at the joint (the interaction bony surface between two stacked vertebrae). Research has found that the C2-3 level in particular is responsible for 70% of CGH cases of which some can be osteoarthritic changes. There has also been a link found with those that struggle with hypermobility and hypomobility.
Due to the spinal nerves arising from of the different vertebral levels and their shared neural pathways with other nerves of the head, pain can be felt beyond the area of the neck which can often confuse what the source of dysfunction is. CGH can have similar symptoms to migraines and tension headaches. It isn't as common but some sufferers can even experience sensitivity to light and sound as well as nausea and vomiting.
Signs and symptoms -
Unilateral headache at the back of the neck that can be felt up over the head to the forehead above the eye.
Reduced range of motion of the neck - Pain that is aggravated by neck movements.
Tenderness to touch on the neck - Moderate to severe levels of pain.
Referred pain on the same side as the headache to the shoulder and/or arm.
Physiotherapy (manual therapies eg. Osteopathy) are considered first line treatment for this type of headache. Successful treatment generally involves a combination of manipulative therapies and rehabilitative exercise. Especially in the beginning, some treatment can aggravate headaches initially before improving but this emphasises having a tailored plan that is specific to the patient and their needs. If physiotherapy doesn’t work, joint injections can be used not just for treatment but also to help diagnose at what level the dysfunction is occuring at- especially with chronic sufferers. Surgery is generally considered an absolutely last resort for management.
If you experience anything like described above, book in with one of us at Active Therapy. We can help you work out an effective plan to get on top of your headaches!