Understanding Cervicogenic Headaches: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

in Neck Pain / June 28th, 2024

Imagine a persistent headache that begins in your neck and spreads to your head, making everyday tasks a challenge. This is a cervicogenic headache. Unlike primary headaches, cervicogenic headaches are triggered by issues in the neck, such as trauma or infection. Let's explore what causes these debilitating headaches, the symptoms to look out for, and the most effective ways to find relief.

What Causes Cervicogenic Headaches?

It can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of cervicogenic headaches. These headaches can result from issues with the vertebrae, joints, or neck muscles that develop over time. Bad posture, like holding out your head in front of your body, called “forward head motion,” puts extra weight on your neck and back, also causing cervicogenic headaches. Other causes include:

Cervicogenic Headache Symptoms

Pain resulting from sudden neck movements, as well as persistent head pain even when your neck has stayed in the same position for a while, can be signs of cervicogenic headache. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain on one side of your head or face
  • Persistent, non-throbbing pain
  • Head pain when coughing, sneezing, or taking a deep breath
  • Stiff neck
  • Intense pain that lasts hours or days
  • Pain localized to one spot, such as the back or front of your head

Additionally, it’s possible to experience cervicogenic headaches and migraines simultaneously, which can make it even more difficult to determine what is really happening. Overlapping symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Arm or shoulder pain
  • Discomfort in bright light
  • Discomfort with loud noise
  • Blurry vision

Treating Cervicogenic Headaches

Treatments for cervicogenic headaches focus on addressing the underlying cause of the pain and vary based on the severity of the symptoms. Common treatment methods include:

  • Medication: Aspirin, ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, and other pain relievers can help manage cervicogenic headache pain.
  • Nerve blocks: Medication is injected into the body to numb the nerves responsible for the pain.
  • Steroid injections: This non-surgical procedure targets pain caused by herniated discs, inflamed spinal nerves, or other painful conditions.
  • Physical therapy: Stretches and exercise can help address neck and spine issues, alleviating cervicogenic headache pain.
  • Spinal manipulation: This treatment method combines physical therapy, massage, and joint movement. It should only be conducted by a licensed physical therapist or chiropractor.
  • Lifestyle recommendations: Yoga, deep breathing, and acupuncture can help temporarily relieve pain.

Address Cervicogenic Headaches With a Pain Management Expert

If you’re experiencing symptoms of cervicogenic headaches, it’s important to speak with a pain management specialist as soon as possible. At The Spine + Sports Health Center, our expert physicians will use the latest diagnostic technology to identify the root cause of your pain and develop a customized treatment plan to address it, which may include physical therapy and chiropractic care. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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