Cervicogenic Headache

Headache is very common, affecting almost half of the population.  In fact, fifteen to twenty percent of all headaches come from problems in the neck.  This type of headache is a “cervicogenic headache.”  The most common trigger for cervicogenic headache is limited movement of the joints in your upper cervical spine.  Normally, each of the joints in your neck moves freely and independently.  Yet, restrictions in the upper cervical spine initiate a painful cycle of stiffness, muscle tightness, and joint inflammation.  This causes irritation to the sensitive nerves leading from your neck into the back of your head.

What does cervicogenic headache feel like?

Cervicogenic headaches usually occur on one side of the head, yet occasionally present on both sides.  Pain often radiates from the base of your skull toward the top of your head and sometimes over your eyes.  In rare instances, the pain may travel into your arm.  These headache episodes may last from hours to days.  The pain is continuous but fluctuating in intensity.  People often describe the headache as “deep.”  You may also notice associated chronic neck tenderness and stiffness.

Headache Triggers

Certain awkward movements and postures may trigger cervicogenic headache symptoms.  The condition is very common in those who have recently experienced neck trauma, especially a motor vehicle accident or concussion.  The condition often affects middle-aged adults and is more common in women at a rate of four to one. Cervicogenic headaches are sometimes accompanied by poor neck posture, including a “slouched” or “forward head” posture.

Also, dehydration worsens cervicogenic headaches.  Make sure that you are drinking 6-8 glasses of water each day, more in hot weather or when you’ve been sweating.  Since cervicogenic headaches result from a mechanical problem, medicines are often ineffective.

Treatment for Cervicogenic Headache

Our team of chiropractors regularly evaluate and treat many types of headache.  A careful diagnosis will determine what conservative treatments would be best for your specific problem.   Fortunately, our office has several tools to help solve this problem.  Be sure to tell us if you notice your headaches becoming progressively worse over time.  Also if you experience sudden onset of a severe headache or an unfamiliar headache, as these symptoms may indicate an underlying serious cause.

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