March 5, 2024 Cervicogenic Headaches: 3 Ways Physiotherapy Can Help

Cervicogenic Headaches: 3 Ways Physiotherapy Can Help

Cervicogenic Headaches: 3 Ways Physiotherapy Can Help

Surprisingly, one out of every four adults suffers from cervicogenic headaches.

A cervicogenic headache is a recurring headache that develops after a sudden neck movement, not moving your neck for a while, or trauma to your neck (like whiplash). It is usually accompanied by a stiff or painful neck. Undeniably, these can seriously disrupt your daily functioning. So, what can you do about it?

In this article, we explore cervicogenic headaches, their causes, and how physiotherapy can gently and effectively reduce their frequency and pain.

What Causes Cervicogenic Headaches?

Cervicogenic headaches are the result of dysfunction in one of the top 3 levels in your neck. Pain is then referred into your head causing your headache. Think of it as your upper neck’s version of sciatica.

This can be the result of:

  • Injury—like whiplash or a fall
  • Incorrect posture that worsens over time—slouching or hiking your handbag shoulder or long periods of sitting at the computer
  • Arthritis affecting your neck joints and discs

They can also be caused by muscular tension from stress, similar to tension headaches.

Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches

The nerves that run through your cervical spine (C1-C3) are responsible for head movement and sensation to the back of the head and side of the face. If you experience some of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from cervicogenic headaches.

  • Pain that starts in the neck and moves upwards into the head, opposite from the usual headache that moves down into the neck
  • Pain predominately on one side of the head. It can change sides, but 1 side will be dominant.
  • Neck pain and/or stiffness always present during the headache.
  • Steady pain, not throbbing pain.
  • Dizziness

You may also experience symptoms that overlap with typical migraine symptoms, like queasiness, discomfort in brightly lit or loud areas, or pain in your arms or shoulders.

Pro Tip: When you notice a headache starting, jot down what you were doing, how you were feeling, and any other unusual occurrences that may help diagnose your type of headache. This is valuable information to be shared with your physio, or doctor.

3 Ways Physiotherapy Alleviates Cervicogenic Headaches

The good news is that cervicogenic headaches don’t have to be a regular experience—and you don’t have to resort to strong painkillers to survive them, either. You can tackle the root cause of these headaches by investing in the health and wellness of your cervical spine.

So, here are three ways that physiotherapy can relieve and reduce the pain and frequency of your cervicogenic headaches—and strengthen your neck.

1. Mobilisation

Your physiotherapist will gently guide your neck in its usual range of motion. This helps reduce tension and relieves any pressure on the joints and nerves in your cervical vertebrae.

Note: You must go to a qualified physiotherapist due to the sensitive nature of your nerves and spinal column.

2. Manipulation

Your physio will also manipulate your neck joints to restore movement and balance. You may even notice immediate pain relief as your movement is restored.

Soft tissue massage will help to reduce tension if muscular tension is a trigger for your headaches.

3. Exercises

Exercises that strengthen the muscles around your neck and upper back—responsible for holding your cervical spine in the correct posture—help to maintain the correct alignment of your neck. This will also help improve your overall spine posture!

Your physio will identify weaknesses that are causing your cervicogenic headaches and coach you in the correct exercises that will combat your pain for good! They’ll use a combination of tilting, turning, rolling, and nodding-type movements. They might also use dry needling, ergonomic coaching (teaching you how to arrange your workstation) and address your sleep posture.

Book Your Appointment Today!

Say goodbye to that pain in your neck, head, or face! If you’re looking for a drug-free approach that will identify and combat the cause of your cervicogenic headache, please call 02 9144 1510 or book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists today.

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