If you’ve been suffering from migraine headaches, you might not know there are many different types of headaches. Because of this, they are often misdiagnosed. As a result, we frequently see patients who have suffered for years, trying multiple medications and treatments, all with little to no relief. Why? Because they have been diagnosed with “migraine” or “tension” headaches. In reality, one of the most commonly misdiagnosed headaches types is cervicogenic.
What is a Cervicogenic Headache?
Simply put, a cervicogenic headache means a headache that is originating from your neck. To clarify, the headache you feel is a type of referred pain. In other words, you feel pain in an area different than the source or cause. Typically, the issue lies in the upper joints and muscles of the neck, which leads to decreased neck range of motion and increased tightness/stiffness.
How To Identify Cervicogenic Headaches?
- Cervicogenic headaches are usually unilateral, meaning they occur on one side of the head and face.
- The pain typically starts in the back of the head or neck (around the base of the skull) and radiates to the front and around the eye. This is often referred to as the “ram’s horn” pattern because of the location of the symptoms.
- Neck pain and stiffness usually occurs at the same time of the headache.
- The headaches are brought on by prolonged static postures or awkward neck movements. For instance, this could be anything from sitting at your work desk for too long, staying up late studying for an exam, or lifting overhead with your neck in an awkward position.
- Occasionally the headache will be accompanied by jaw pain
How To Relieve Pain from Cervicogenic Headaches?
Mobilize the Joints in Your Upper Neck – getting these joints moving helps decrease tension and headaches. For example, cervical SNAGs are a great way to start:
Decrease Muscle Tension in the Neck Muscles – grab a lacrosse or tennis ball and use it to self-massage your upper trap muscles.
Stretch Your Upper Back – mobilizing the thoracic spine takes tension off of the neck muscles. Foam roller thoracic extensions are one great way to work on this:
Move Often – There’s no perfect posture, as any position can cause discomfort if you stay in it for too long. Your best posture is your next posture, and we recommend changing positions frequently throughout your day. Try not to stay in any one posture for longer than 20-30 min at a time.
See A Physical Therapist – we recommend seeing a physical therapist who specializes in neck pain and headaches. Once we diagnose the proper type of headache, treatment will often reduce your headache rapidly and dramatically.