Headaches coming from the neck

A headache can be classified into three main categories; migraines (vascular), tension headaches and Cervicogenic headaches. Some highly trained physiotherapists are particularly skilled at managing and treating cervicogenic headaches.

Before we go into further detail on cervicogenic and tension-type headaches, it should be pointed out that a true migraine is best treated by your GP and/or pain specialist as this is a vascular condition. For further information on this, visit the Migraine & Headaches Australia by clicking here.

A Cervicogenic headache is the term used to describe a headache that originates from the cervical spine (or neck). Stiffness or tightness in in the upper neck region and the surrounding muscles can send radiating pain into your head causing a headache. Joints and muscles of the neck work optimally when they have normal range, tension, strength and endurance. However if there is an injury to the joint itself where it is locked in an abnormal position due to poor posture or movements or the muscles are either overworked or become weak or fatigued are factors that can commonly lead to referred headaches.

Common symptoms of a Cervicogenic headache usually include;

                  • Persistent pain at the base of the skull and into the head
                  • Tenderness around the base of the skull
                  • Reduced neck movements with pain referred into head
                  • Headache worse on one side
                  • Headaches temporarily released with pressure or massage to the back of the neck and skull
                  • Often following a neck injury

A tension-type headache is, as the name suggests, one due to tension from surround muscles, fascia, nerves and tendons that pull on their attachment up on the scalp and create a sensation of pain, tightness and tension. Whilst the feeling is often one of tightness, they are often caused by muscle weakness, poor posture and stress. Excessive time in front of screens has much to answer for when it comes to tension-type headaches.

Common symptoms include:

                  • Dull, aching head pain
                  • Sensations of pressure or tightness across the forehead above the eyes and the bac of the head
                  • Tenderness on the scalp, shoulders, traps and neck muscles

Management and treatment of cervicogenic headaches and tension-type headaches will often be quite different and should always target the source of the symptoms. It will usually include manual therapy, soft tissue massage, dry needling (only if you are open to it), postural retraining and specific prescribed exercises to help with mobility and strength.

Physiotherapy for headaches has been shown to be a very effective management tool to reduce pain. Targeted manual therapy can give immediate, long-lasting relief to headaches and when coupled with good quality exercise prescription and advice, can reduce symptoms long term.

At Subiaco physio we have a team of highly professional and experience physiotherapists that will confidently diagnose, treat and manage your pain. Make an appointment today so we can get you back to be being headache and pain free!