cervicogenic headache

Cervicogenic headache

Some headaches are a result of eyestrain, stress, tiredness, or trauma. If you are feeling a headache coming on, you may be able to isolate the cause. Cervicogenic headaches are caused by issues with the nerves, bones, or muscles in your neck. Although you may feel pain in your head, it doesn’t start there. Instead, the pain you feel is referred pain from another part of your body.

Cervicogenic headaches can look like migraines, so it may be difficult to tell a difference between a cervicogenic headache and migraine headache. The major difference is that a migraine headache is rooted in the brain, and a cervicogenic headache is rooted in the neck (cervical spine) or base of the skull area.

Symptoms of a cervicogenic headache :

  • pain on any one side of your head/face
  • pain around eyes
  • a stiff neck
  • pain when coughing or sneezing
  • A headache while some particular neck postures or movement

symptoms similar to migraine headaches :

  • Upset stomach
  • light sensitivity
  • noise sensitivity
  • blurry vision

Causes of cervicogenic headaches

Different conditions can trigger this type of pain. These include degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis, a prolapsed disc in the neck, or a whiplash injury. Injury from falling down or playing sports can also cause to trigger these headaches.

Your posture while sitting or standing at work can also cause Cervicogenic headaches. If you’re a carpenter, driver, or someone who has to sit at a desk, you may unknowingly push your chin forward which moves your head out in front of your body. It is called 'cervical protraction'. This position for long periods of time can put pressure on the neck and base of the skull, results in a cervicogenic headache.

Falling asleep in an awkward position can also trigger these types of headaches. This can happen if you sleep in a chair or while sitting up in bed. A pinched or compressed nerve in or near the neck is an additional cause of cervicogenic headaches.

How physical therapy can help?

To strengthen weak neck muscles and improve the mobility of your joints you will need a physical therapist. Your doctor can also recommend other therapies to reduce nerve, joint, or muscle pain in the neck. These cover massage therapy, spinal manipulation with chiropractic care, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and relaxation techniques. Other options for managing pain include:

  • applying heat or ice for about 10 minutes, multiple times a day
  • using a neck brace when sleeping upright.
  • applying heat or ice for about 10 minutes, multiple times a day
  • avoiding activities that worsen pain

How to prevent it?

Some occurrences of cervicogenic headaches can not be preventable. This is the case with headaches stemming from a condition like osteoarthritis, which tends to set in with age. Some of the same strategies for managing pain may also prevent these types of headaches. For instance, keep a good posture when sitting or driving. Don’t sleep with your head propped too high on a pillow. Ideally, keep your neck and spine in alignment, and use a neck brace if you’re sleeping in a chair or sitting upright. Also, try to avoid head and neck collisions when playing sports to prevent injury to the cervical spine.

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