If you’ve been suffering from headaches, you might not know there are many different types of headaches. For this reason, migraines can often be misdiagnosed. As a result, we frequently see patients who have multiple medications and treatments for years, with little to no relief. Why? Because they have been diagnosed with “migraine” or “tension” headaches. The reality is, one of the most commonly misdiagnosed headaches types is cervicogenic.
How is a Cervicogenic Headache Different?
Simply put, a cervicogenic headache means the pain is originating from your neck. The headache symptom is a type of referred pain. Referred pain means you feel pain in an area different than the source or cause. With cervicogenic type of headache the issue typically lies in the upper joints and muscles of the neck. This leads to decreased range of motion and increased tightness/stiffness in the neck and head.
How To Identify a Cervicogenic Headache?
- Cervicogenic headaches are usually unilateral. This means most of the pain is going to be located to one side of the head or 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 called a “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 can be brought on by prolonged static postures or awkward neck movements. For example, this could be sitting at your work desk for too long, staying up late studying, or lifting overhead with your neck in a different position.
- Cervicogenic headaches can occasionally be accompanied by jaw pain
How To Help It?
Mobilize the Joints in Your Upper Neck – getting these joints moving helps decrease tension and headaches. Cervical SNAGs is our favorite at getting the upper neck moving:
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 – Change positions frequently throughout the day. Set a timer for 30-45 minutes and try to adjust how you have been sitting in some way. 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.
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.
If you would like more information or want to schedule an evaluation, email firstname.lastname@example.org or CLICK HERE to schedule online! Dr Cody Gingerich of Onward Physical Therapy in Greenville, SC specializes in helping individuals suffering from chronic headaches regain their freedom!