Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headache describes the phenomena of a headache that is caused by another issue or pathology, namely in the neck. There are multiple structures that can cause headaches such as bone, intervertebral disc of local soft tissue. When one or multiple of these structures begin to irritate the upper cervical nerves, pain is referred to the regions of the head that these nerves innervate. Below is an image of the most common pain patterns caused by cervical issues.

There are many reasons someone might develop cervicogenic headaches, such as trauma to the neck, sprains and strains of local structures, inflammation and most commonly poor posture.

This article will cover the signs and symptoms and basic treatment of cervicogenic headaches caused by postural dysfunction.

What Structures are involved?

The most common structures involves with posture related cervicogenic headaches are:

  1. The muscles
  2. The cervical facet joints
  3. The upper cervical nerves

Why does posture cause neck dysfunction?

When we sit for prolonged periods, particularly when using a computer, the back starts to fatigue. The head begins to move forward from its neural position which in turn puts more stress on the back and posterior neck muscles. The muscles in the upper neck will contract and tighten to maintain control of the head.

This tightening may compress the local nerves in the upper neck and cause referred pain into the head as a headache. The image to the left demonstrates the positional change which leads to this condition.

What can be done to fix it?

There are many avenues for treatment of cervicogenic headaches. These include massage and/or acupuncture to reduce the muscle tension causing the symptoms. Mobility exercises to improve the range of motion and positioning of the neck. Back and neck strengthening exercises to improve your ability to sit in better postural positions for longer periods throughout the day. All of these treatment techniques are important in order to resolve the symptoms of a headache caused by poor posture. If you feel you have or are beginning to feel any of these symptoms please come and see us to discuss what we can do for you.

Author


Will Simpson