Many people come to our clinic looking for relief from their headaches. Whether or not we can help them depends on many factors, one of them being the specific type of headache. Perhaps the headache type that we find the most success with is “cervicogenic headache”. This is a fancy term that describes headaches that stem from neck pain.
Approximately 2.5% of the adult population gets cervicogenic or “neck headaches”. These comprise 15-20% of chronic and recurrent headaches.
Symptoms of Neck Headaches
Headaches that originate from the neck are actually somewhat simple. Typically, a person suffering from these headaches will complain of neck pain associated with their headache. The neck pain usually occurs before and sometimes also during their headache. There is usually an absence of symptoms that are well known in migraine headaches. That is, a person experiencing a true neck pain headache would not complain of associated nausea, vomiting or visual changes.
Treatment of Neck Headaches
Obviously, the treatment of headaches associated with neck pain is geared toward the dysfunctional area; the neck. According to the scientific literature, the majority should be expected in the upper region of the neck. Specifically, the C1-2 levels, which are essentially right under your skull. At Burlington Sports Therapy, our chiropractors and physiotherapists use a variety of treatment methods. Some of the options include laser therapy, manual therapy like active release, spinal mobilizations or chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture and rehabilitative exercise. If you’re prone to this type of headache you’ve probably already realized what the scientific evidence also says; stretching (by itself with no other intervention) does not work.
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Hall J et al. Intertester reliability and diagnostic validity of the cervical flexion rotation test. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics 2008; 31: 293-300.
Ylinen J et al. Effect of neck exercises on cervicogenic headache: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 2010; 42: 1-6.