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HEADACHES AND THE NECK




Could your headache be coming from your neck? Headache is a common complaint. There are different types of headache such as:

  • tension type headache

  • migraine

  • cervicogenic headache (coming from the neck)


WHAT IS CERVICOGENIC HEADACHE?

Pain can come from muscles, joints and ligaments at the upper cervical spine that are experience in the forehead or face. An area of dense nerves in the lower brainstem (trigemino-cervical nucleus) receives sensory messages from the upper neck, but also from a nerve (trigeminal) that extends to the face and top of the head. We may have a problem in the upper neck, but the brain cannot distinguish whether the pain is from the neck or the face/forehead. The result is headache, however treatment is targeted at the cervical spine.






WHAT CAUSES THIS TYPE OF HEADACHE?

Disfunction in the neck leading to headache can come on suddenly, or develop over a period of time. Common issues like sustained desk and computer work, poor postures, reduced strength of neck muscles or stiff muscles or joints may lead to cervicogenic headache.





HOW IS IT TREATED?

Physio treatment like performing hands on therapy using joint mobilisations and soft tissue treatment to surrounding muscles are common ways to improve symptoms and reduce headache. It may be important to improve other contributing factors that may be present such as:


  • Lifestyle - how we work, how we sleep, stress, how sedentary we are etc

  • Upper body and neck strength/flexibility

  • Sustained positions and postures relating to work or leisure


It is important to get a comprehensive assessment performed by the physio if you suffer headache, as the source of this pain can be due to a number of reasons. The most appropriate treatment path can then be taken.


Peter Dal Lago

Physio