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cervicogenic headache

Headaches? There’s physio for that!

Physiotherapy For Cervicogenic Headache

By Sarah El Queisi, MSc(A)PT, FCAMPT, physiotherapist

Woman with headache

There are many different types of headaches that exist, each with its own causes and symptoms. Cervicogenic headaches are caused by a dysfunction in the muscles, joints or nerves in the upper cervical spine. Symptoms include pain on one side of the head, tenderness in the upper part of the neck, and pain with specific head movements or postures. Did you know that physiotherapy can help decrease both headache frequency and intensity?

A short anatomy lesson

Certain structures in the upper neck can refer pain into the head. Pain referral happens when a muscle, joint or organ sends pain signals elsewhere in the body. A common example of referred pain is when a person is having a heart attack, he may feel pain in the left arm or left side of the body, when the pain originates in the heart. 

Muscles in the neck can refer pain throughout the the head and even into the forehead area. Facet joints, which are the small joints between each vertebrae in the neck can also refer pain to these areas. The suboccipital nerve, also known as Arnold’s nerve, can also send pain signals up the back of the skull.

Common Causes of Cervicogenic Headache Pain

Since cervicogenic headaches can have many different causes it is important to determine why the headaches started, and what is bringing them on. Some common causes are arthritis, trauma from whiplash or falls. These conditions can cause restriction of mobility of the joints in the spine, strains or injuries to the muscles in the neck, which can result in weakness, tightness and pain. Some people will even develop cervicogenic headaches due to sustained postures.

What to do?

CAMPT-certified physiotherapists are experts in orthopedic manual therapy and have extensive training in how to manage spinal pain. A CAMPT-certified therapist will be able to determine if your headache is likely cervicogenic in origin, and if so, exactly what structures those symptoms are coming from. They will be able to determine if your headache is due to muscle weakness, muscle tension, joint restriction, or nerve pain. Your physio will be able to assess your spine in detail, and propose a specific treatment plan. This may include manual techniques, home exercises for stretching, strengthening or posture. Most importantly, your CAMPT-certified physio will also be able to recognize potentially worrisome symptoms, and refer you to a physician as required.

Many cases of cervicogenic headache can be managed with non-invasive treatment, and a CAMPT-certified physiotherapist can help decrease your pain and get back to the lifestyle that you enjoy. Do you think you might be suffering from cervicogenic headaches? Make an appointment for an evaluation today at http://physioavantex.com/contact-us/!

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