What is Cervicogenic Headache?
Cervicogenic headache according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders is classified as a secondary headache disorder. Secondary headache disorders refer to headaches originating from a problem other than the head itself. This means the headache pain occurs due to another condition stimulating the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. In the case of cervicogenic headache, this condition refers to a dysfunction along the cervical joints of the neck. This could be a dysfunction in the muscles, joints, discs, ligaments, or even nerves of the neck. Any of these aforementioned structures can then lead to the cervical afferent nerve fibres to be stimulated, to create pain pathways into the head, known as cervicogenic headache.
Cervicogenic Headache symptoms
Those suffering from cervicogenic headache may have mild to moderate pain. The headache is usually experienced on one side of the head, and often commences at the neck and courses its way up to the head and face. Sufferers may feel pulsating or sharp pain along the eye, forehead, side or back of the head. They will often have focal discomfort along the neck, as well as reduced range of motion of the neck. Nausea and vomiting may also be present with those suffering from cervicogenic headaches1. Patients may also experience dizziness, tinnitus, difficulty concentrating, inability to function normally and depression.
What is the cause of Cervicogenic Headache?
An injury or dysfunction to the neck is thought to be the cause of pain referring into the head. This could be a sudden neck injury such as a motor vehicle accident, a fall, a blow or strike to the head, or any other forms of whiplash injuries to the neck. Many sufferers however do not recall of any neck injuries, and most of the time have no history of any acute trauma to the neck or head. In this case, the injury to the neck most commonly occurs due to a repetitive strain injury (RSI). This can occur in those who have a poor posture with their heads protracted forwards. Due to the poor alignment of the neck and head, this places tremendous strain and forces to the neck joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves. This is commonly found in office type workers sitting in a poor posture, or people using their phone, book or computer with their head leaning forwards in a poor posture. Other examples are labourers, such as builders or painters, who may constantly look down, or above their heads, and overtime incidentally strain their neck during their repetitive workload. These can all cause repetitive strain injury (RSI) to the neck and overtime develop cervicogenic headache.
In the case of Cervicogenic headache, the injury or any dysfunction to the neck, will stimulate afferent nerve fibres. This will send signals to the head which is perceived as pain, known as Cervicogenic Headache2. Those with Cervicogenic Headaches exhibit with a dysfunction in the following upper 3 cervical spine:
* Atlanto-Occipital joint (O-C1)
* Atlanto-Axial joint (C1-2)
* Second and third Cervical spine (C2-3)
Clinical trials indicate the problem from the upper cervical spine to result in a SENSITISED BRAINSTEM. Those suffering from cervicogenic headaches will have a dysfunction along the O-C1, C1-2, C2-3 or all of the combined 3 segments. The brainstem and more importantly, the Trigemino-Cervical Nucleus (TCN) is located in the upper three cervical spine. A dysfunction in these joints will result in a sensitised brainstem, which will induce pain to radiate into the head. Those with this problem will perceive headache and potentially migraine pain as a consequence.
I’ve already tried everything. What else can be done to help Cervicogenic Headaches?
At the Brisbane Headache and Migraine Clinic™, we have seen countless amounts of patients with cervicogenic headaches and use world-class techniques in assessing and treating the neck. Modern medicine continues to improve, and unfortunately this means that not everyone can keep up to date with the latest research. Many practitioners still utilise outdated medical models to treat cervicogenic headaches.
Here at the Brisbane Headache and Migraine Clinic™, we specialise in treating headaches and migraines. Therefore, we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with the latest literature, and applying the most effective treatments. We have seen countless patients with Cervicogenic Headaches with significant results. A thorough examination of the upper cervical spine is initiated to determine the severity of your SENSITISED BRAINSTEM. If your brainstem is hypersensitive and causing your cervicogenic headaches, we undergo treatment in order to desensitise the brainstem effectively and safely.
Once treatment commences we expect a significant improvement to occur rapidly in 90% of our patients with Cervicogenic Headaches, within the first 5 treatment consultations. We’re not in the business of giving false hope. If we don’t think our treatment can help you, we will let you know after the initial consultation. Our treatment is effective in alleviating or dramatically reducing Cervicogenic Headaches in 85-90% of sufferers.
The best part is our treatment is drug-free, surgery-free and invasive-free.
Imagine living a life free from headaches and migraines and saying goodbye to medications!
To gain your recovery today contact us on 1800 HEADACHE (toll free)
1800 43 23 22
1. Sjasstad O, Bakketeig LS. Prevalence of cervicogenic headache: Vaga study of headache epidemiology. Acta Neurol Scand 2008; 117:173-180
2. Watson, D.H. and Drummond, P.D. (2014). Cervical Referral of Head Pain in Migraineurs: Effects on the Nociceptive Blink Reflex. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 54(6), pp.1035-1045.