There are multiple causes of headaches. Headaches due to problems with the structures in the neck and spine are called Cervicogenic Headaches. Although similar to tension headaches (see separate fact sheet), the symptoms and treatment for Cervicogenic Headaches are slightly different.

Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches

The symptoms of Cervicogenic headache can range from mild to severe and may occur suddenly or develop gradually. Some defining symptoms of cervicogenic headaches are:

  • Aching pain, often felt on one side, or at base of the skull, above the eyes or over the temples.
  • Associated pain in the muscles of the neck.
  • Limited range of motion in the muscles of the neck.
  • Exacerbation with use and/or strain of neck muscles (i.e. driving, typing etc.).
  • Cervicogenic headaches may be recurrent, or persist over a long time if the cause of the neck dysfunction is left untreated

Treatment and management

Your osteopath can perform an examination to properly diagnose your headache and associated neck dysfunction and plan your treatment. This may involve:

  • Osteopathic treatment, if safe, of structures in the head and neck that may be contributing to, or affected by headache
  • Therapeutic exercises and stretches
  • Identification of ergonomic, training or lifestyle factors that may be contributing to neck dysfunction and cervicogenic headaches
  • Ergonomic and postural modifications to help prevent recurrence
  • Methods to reduce inflammation including icing certain structures, and/or natural or pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory medications.

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