About two million Australians suffer from headaches and migraines. And when a headache or migraine strikes, you might find yourself quickly cancelling plans or withdrawing to bed for the rest of the day (talk about inconvenient!).
Yet, many people find relief from their pain with a holistic approach like physiotherapy. For cervicogenic headaches, specifically, physiotherapy offers plenty of benefits. So, what is a cervicogenic headache? Why do they happen in the first place? And how can you find relief?
What is a Cervicogenic Headache?
A Cervicogenic Headache, or CGH, is a headache that stems from neck or upper spinal issues. In fact, even tightness in the muscles and the joints in the face, neck, and head can lead to tension headaches or CGH.
However, treatment with physiotherapy is quite effective in preventing the symptoms of these headaches. Undeniably, CGH can be debilitating for many individuals. With treatments like mobilisation, manipulation, soft tissue work, dry needling, and at-home exercises, seeking professional help can be a huge relief.
Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches
Knowing what signs and symptoms to watch out for can help you determine if you’re suffering from a cervicogenic headache or not. Some of the most common symptoms of CGH include:
- Pain or tension stemming from the neck
- Pain occurring during neck movement
- Pressure or pain in the upper neck or base of the skull
- Poor range of motion that results in worsening symptoms
- Headache pain is one-sided
- Dizziness and Nausea
Neck Issues and CGH
If you’ve sustained a neck injury, it could increase the likelihood of cervicogenic headaches. In the upper spine, there is a region called the trigeminocervical nucleus. The area is where many sensory nerve fibers meet, and it’s the area responsible for pain in the face and head. When you have a CGH, pain appears in this area, and then it’s felt across the head.
Some neck issues that can lead to CGH include:
- Neck muscle injury
- Atlanto-occipital joint (the joint between the base of the skull and the first vertebra) injury
- Cervical spine injury
- A pinched nerve in the upper spine
- Tumors on the cervical spine
Symptoms That Need Further Medical Attention
While many Cervicogenic Headaches are minor, some symptoms should indicate that you need further medical attention. These include:
- Facial numbness
- Difficulty talking or swallowing
- Sudden fainting
- Double vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Movement of the eyes that’s uncontrollable
- Numbness of the face or pins and needles
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to book an appointment with your doctor. If these symptoms are severe, seek out immediate medical attention. Your physiotherapist will advise you if this is required if you have not already done so.
Preventing and Treating Cervicogenic Headaches
There are plenty of ways for headache sufferers to treat and manage CGH. Ensuring you are maintaining a healthy posture while sitting is essential, especially if you work at a desk for eight or more hours per day. Getting up and moving around every 30 minutes to an hour can further help reset your posture and alleviate tension.
Your workstation should also be ergonomically correct to help keep your spine healthy throughout your work day. Many companies actually offer ergonomic assessments, helping you create the most effective, efficient, and pain-free work situation possible (inquire and find out if yours does!).
Additionally, getting proper sleep to avoid exhaustion can help combat CGH. Sleeping on your side or with extra support for your spine and neck may also provide some relief.
Lastly, keeping yourself well-hydrated and leading a relatively healthy lifestyle may also prevent headaches, such as CGH.
How Can Physiotherapy Help?
An exercise routine that you enjoy and can stay consistent with is excellent for a healthy life and headache prevention. If you’re struggling to establish a healthy workout routine, a physiotherapist can help determine what exercises are suitable for you, setting you up on the right path.
Enlisting the help of a physiotherapist can also help you find relief from any current pain you’re experiencing. Through exercise prescription, manual therapies, and more, a physiotherapist can help identify imbalances within your body and eliminate them.
At Turramurra Sports & Physiotherapy, our team is ready to help you find relief from CGH. Begin enjoying your life again, rather than sitting on the sidelines. Book your appointment online or call (02) 9144 1510 today.