“Not worth the headache” – Cervicogenic headache


Headaches can strike for a multitude of reasons, Physiotherapists treat a lot of cervicogenic headaches. This type of chronic headache often originates with pain felt in the neck and may travel to the base of the skull, sometimes over the temples towards the forehead and behind the eyes.

​The source of the headache is referred from the cervical spine (neck). Physiotherapists can accurately diagnose whether the pain originates from a joint, an entrapped nerve, ligament, disc or muscle and work with you treat pain and prevent reoccurrence.

Often, cervicogenic headache originates from poor posture of our neck and spine where certain muscles become tight and/or weak.

  • Women are more commonly affected
  • Pain is usually felt on one side of the head/scalp (but could be both)
  • Gradual onset, ranging from moderate to severe intensity
  • Usually worsens with neck movement
  • Stiffness or limited movement in the neck
  • Emotional stressors may also contribute

*Important screening tests are done by your physiotherapist to rule out serious pathology.

What does treatment involve?
After a thorough assessment, your Physiotherapist may utilise manual therapy skills, including massage, joint mobilisations or manipulations. Based on assessment findings and response to initial treatment, stretching and/or strengthening exercises may be prescribed to maintain joint mobility, muscle flexibility and the strength of your neck to reduce or prevent reoccurrence.

How long until it gets better?
Depending on the severity of the headache, it could resolve within a matter of days, weeks or months as it takes time for muscle imbalances and postures to be corrected. Self-management techniques for after your treatment session could involve:

  • Altering ergonomics – i.e modifying occupational and/or leisure activtity positions and postures
  • Managing emotional stress or triggers that may increase muscular tension
  • Home exercises for strengthening weak muscles or stretching tight ones
  • Self mobilization of joints to reduce stiffness (i.e using a foam roller, massage ball or towel as instructed by your physiotherapist)
  • Heat therapy

Should I get an X-ray?
Often, imaging alone won’t tell you the cause of the problem but it may help support the diagnosis given to you by your healthcare professional.

SO if you don’t have time for headaches, get in touch today to see how our team can help you. Book online or call 02 5926 3806

Fun Fact! As long ago as the 17th century, “trepanation” was common practice for part of the skull to be surgically removed for the treatment of headaches. It was believed that demons and evil spirits trapped in the skull were the cause for headaches and they had to be released.

If you are in pain, or have an injury – let us help!

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