Cervicogenic Headaches and Physiotherapy

Headaches sufferers
Migraines and headaches can be extremely disruptive to your life, as many migraine and headache sufferers will tell you how much they have to bear the pain that nagging them whole day.

Some of them see their GP or neurologist and have made various medical investigations that in the end does not show any abnormalities. They often rely heavily on medications and this can be both relieving and frustrating as it only mask the symptoms instead of solving them.

According to International Headache Society, there are over 300 types of headaches. Most of these headaches (including migraines, tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches etc) have very similar symptoms.

Cervicogenic headaches and referred pain

Cervicogenic headache is a type of headache where pain is felt in the head or face that is referred from structures in the neck. The nerves from joints and soft tissues of the neck directly connected to the part of the brain that related with headaches.

Forget the technical description – it means that you may perceive the headache to be coming from your head, but actually it is coming from your neck. This is similar with sciatica pain, where the pain at the leg is actually refers from the lower back (lumbar) pain.

Is my headache cervicogenic?

Cervicogenic headaches can be identified through symptoms such as:

  • Dull ache which can be constant
  • Sharp stabbing pains
  • Pain radiating to the temples, eyes or eyebrows
  • Pain/tenderness to the base of the head
  • Constant or intermittant
  • Made worse by various factors eg; foods, alcohol, certain times in the menstrual cycle, bright light, working at a computer
  • Associated with other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, tiredness
  • Headache accompanied by neck stiffness, discomfort and pain

What actually caused my headache cervicogenic?

Causes of cervicogenic headaches fall into two main categories


  • Whiplash/ motor vehicle accident
  • Falls onto the neck or shoulder
  • Direct compression or blow onto the top of the head

Atraumatic (non-traumatic)

  • Poor posture (e.g. sleeping position or inappropriate pillows, working position or poor ergonomic set up of a workstation)
  • Repetitive or sustained activities resulting in unbalanced tight muscles (e.g. cycling, shooting, holding your phone to your ear with your shoulder, carrying heavy bags on one shoulder)
  • Stress (resulting in increased muscle tension through the neck, shoulders and upper back)
  • Age and degenerative conditions (e.g. Osteoarthritis, disc degeneration)

Headache cervicogenic and Physiotherapy
The aims of physiotherapy are to identify the source of the pain and treat it to relieve your pain/symptoms.

The physiotherapist also want to identify any underlying causes or influencing factors to stop the pain from coming back. This including a thorough assessment and individualised treatment.

Physiotherapy assessment and treatment
During assessment the physiotherapist will take a detailed history and make a thorough physical examination of your neck to help determine if any structures in your neck may be a source of your pain.
Physiotherapy treament will include direct approach to the structures in your neck that have been recognised as being sources of your referred pain and identifying and addressing any influencing factors to stop the problem from re-occurring.

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Afiq Muhammad

Afiq Muhammad

Physiotherapist at Physio Savvy
Afiq Graduated with BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy from MARA University of Technology. His past work experience involves varied cases in various fields, making his patient care hollistic and patient based. He is most interested and experienced in the fields of musculoskeletal conditions and sporting injuries.
Afiq Muhammad

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