What Are Cervicogenic Headaches And How To Find Relief

Headaches can be caused by many factors and can present with various symptoms. No doubt we have all experienced the pain at one time or another and know they can put us out of actions for hours, if not days. When you have reoccurring headaches, trying to understand the underlying issues is important so that you can seek appropriate treatment.

If there is dysfunction in the neck region, it can cause what is known as a Cervicogenic Headache. These can be mild to severe, possibly in tandem with neck pain, and can limit functionality. There are certain issues that could be occurring in the neck to cause these headaches, hence there may be several types of treatment a professional may use to try to alleviate your discomfort.

Two options that can work well are physiotherapy and osteopathy as these can target the root cause by working to improve the dysfunction in the neck and assisting to decrease the cervicogenic headache. At Whole Body Clinic, our osteos and physios can assess you and provide care that is relevant to your specific issue.

What Are The Symptoms?

When experiencing cervicogenic headaches, people can experience different symptoms. These may begin suddenly or gradually, can range from an ache to debilitating pain, and may happen occasionally or frequently.

Generally, the pain keeps to one side of the head, which is usually associated with the side of the neck where the underlying issue is. You may have pain in your temples, above one or both eyes, or radiating across the occipital region at the base of your head. The neck issue may also mean you have reduced mobility, stiffness, pain, and muscular tension in that area too, with certain movements possibly aggravating the issue.

You may find putting pressure into specific areas of your shoulder muscles or moving your neck into particular positions can help. You may also experience light headedness, dizziness, jaw pain, visual disturbances, ringing in your ears, or nausea.

What Causes Cervicogenic Headaches?

A common factor behind these headaches is inflammation due to irritation of certain joints, intervertebral discs, soft tissues, and nerves in the upper cervical spine within the neck area.

This can be down to several reasons such as:

  • An accident or trauma to the neck region.
  • Poor posture, such as sitting in a slumped manner or at a desk with inappropriate ergonomics for extended periods of time.
  • Muscle weakness at the front of the neck.
  • Sleeping in an uncomfortable position.
  • Cervical osteoarthritis.
  • A damaged disc.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscular stress.
  • Females are more likely to experience cervicogenic headaches.

How Can You Manage These Symptoms?


During your initial visit, our physio and/or osteo will assess you and gain an understanding of the history of your symptoms and any injuries or possible causes. We examine the structures within your neck, work to determine any dysfunction, and develop a plan that is relevant to your specific needs. You may need to visit your doctor to rule out other issues, and X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans may be relevant.

Treatment Options

There are several methods that may help you find relief from cervicogenic headaches. Techniques to reduce the inflammation in the neck may be appropriate, such as applying ice or heat, or taking anti-inflammatory medication that is advised and suitable for your medical history. Treatment of the underlying issue is fundamental in finding short and long term improvement. This may include physiotherapy and/or osteopathy.

How Can An Osteopath And/Or Physiotherapist Help?

Our osteopaths and/or physios will develop a personalised plan relevant to your situation. We will provide therapy that is targeted at the responsible structures in your neck, which may involve techniques including gentle massage, manual therapy, and manipulation of the region where there may be tightness or spasms.

We will provide you with a self-management plan to continue the recovery process involving certain stretches and strengthening exercises to do to assist in improving the issue and reducing the risk of it reoccurring. Intramuscular stimulation, such as dry needling may also be useful. We may also help you to improve your posture and discuss with you your ergonomic set up for when you are in a certain position for a long time, such as at a work desk.

If relief is not gained, we may refer you to your doctor to receive further guidance, which may involve scans to clarify the cause.

Relief From Cervicogenic Headaches With Physio And Osteopathy

There are various ways you may be able to reduce the pain, disfunction, and mechanical issues associated with cervicogenic headaches. Our qualified therapists can assist by manipulating and mobilising tight or maligned structures, applying soft tissue techniques such as stretching and massage, providing intramuscular stimulation, and giving you advice for posture correction. Cervicogenic headaches can interrupt your daily life and it is important to find the right treatment options for you.

Visit the Whole Body Clinic so that we can assess you and provide you with assistance towards finding improvement.