Cervicogenic headache typically occurs due to referred pain from damage to one or more joints, muscles, ligaments or nerves in the top 3 vertebra of the neck. This occurs because the nerves that supply the upper neck also supply the skin overlying the head, forehead, jaw line, back of the eyes and ears. As a result, pain arising from structures of the upper neck may refer pain to any of these regions causing a cervicogenic headache.
A cervicogenic headache usually presents as a constant dull ache, normally situated at the back of the head, although sometimes behind the eyes or temple region, and less commonly, on top of the head, forehead or ear region. Pain is usually felt on one side, but occasionally, both sides of the head and face may be affected.
Treatment for Cervicogenic Headaches
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Postural taping
- Activity modification advice
- Ergonomic and sleeping advice
- Exercise programs to improve flexibility, strength (particularly the deep cervical flexors) and posture
- Clinical Pilates