YES! Headaches are really OFTEN caused by your neck… and they’re called:
What is a Cevicogenic Headache?
A cervicogenic headache is a headache that arises due to irritation of the top three neck joints. The irritation to these joints may occur from any injury to the bones, discs, ligaments or muscles in the upper neck region. The 5th cranial nerve (the trigeminal nerve) gives sensation to your face. Your upper three neck (cervical) nerves merge with the trigeminal nerve. This convergence can result in neck pain signals becoming confused and then referring to your head and face. It is a common source of headache with it being believed they account for 4-22% of all headaches.
How Does This Occur?
This may occur due to any factor that causes neck irritation, which includes:
- sitting with slumped posture for long periods of time
- weakness of the front neck muscles
- motor vehicle accident or other neck trauma
- sleeping in awkward positions
- poor desk or work station ergonomics
- any other factor which may irritate your upper neck
What are the Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches?
- Headache on one side or is worse on one side
- Pain may feel it is radiating from your neck or the base of your skull
- Decrease in neck range of motion and neck stiffness
- Pain is aggravated by certain neck movements and may be relieved by others
- Headache may be relieved by pressing into the muscles of the shoulder or neck
How Is a Cervicogenic Headache Managed?
Your Osteopath will discuss a treatment plan with you after a diagnosis has been made. Manual therapy and home exercises may help alleviate your headache. Application of heat (e.g. wheat bag, hot water bottle, heat patches) may provide temporary relief.
Manual Therapy may involve:
– stretching of the muscles
– gentle mobilisation of the neck and upper back joints
Some of the more common home exercises for this type of injury include:
– stretching of the neck and shoulder muscles
– exercises to strengthen the muscles in the front of your neck and upper back
– self mobilisation exercises for your neck and back
***every individual case is managed differently so you may require a different form of management***
How Is It Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is often based on the history (e.g. location, onset and type of pain) along with physical examination. You may need to see a GP to rule out other forms of headache (e.g. migraine) if you have other symptoms with the pain.