Cervicogenic headaches are those that originate from the cervical spine (neck) and the adjacent areas. The term refers to the tension-type headaches and chronic daily headaches experienced by migraine sufferers and are the type of headaches that can respond to effective physiotherapy treatment. They can occur as an isolated symptom of spontaneous onset, as part of another condition such as a prolapsed cervical intervertebral disc and chronic neck pain or post trauma such as a Whiplash Associated Disorder. Physiotherapy management includes improving the mobility of the joints of the neck, the upper back and the interscapular area (between the shoulder blades).
Techniques to reduce muscle tension for example soft tissue massage, stretching, myofascial release, trigger point dry needling and heat application are typically used. In the sub-acute phase when pain is subsiding, rehabilitation of the deep stabilising muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back needs to be undertaken to help improve posture patterns and prevent the recurrence of headache episodes. Whilst some patients may present with a mixed headache pattern attributable to certain specific triggers such as stress, hormone imbalances and dietary irritants, it is important to note that an element of postural dysfunction may also be a significant contributory factor which therefore also needs to be addressed to achieve resolution of symptoms.