A cervicogenic headache is most often characterized by a dull, pain that radiates from the lower neck to the back of the head. From here, it may spread to the forehead, temples and surround the eyes. A cervicogenic headache is what’s known as a secondary headache. It occurs when underlying pain elsewhere is felt in the head. Common causes of cervicogenic headaches are an injury, trauma, spine damage, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and certain types of infections.
Common Features of Cervicogenic Headache Pain Include:
- Pain originating at the back of the neck and radiating along the forehead
- Pain along the shoulder
- Reduced flexibility of the neck
- Swollen eyes
- Blurred vision
Neck Pain with Cervicogenic Headaches
Cervicogenic (CGH) pain often starts in the neck and is commonly described as a dull ache that may worsen with certain types of postures, similar to a “crick”. CGH pain is also typically worse on one side, but with worsening conditions can move to the other side, as well. This type of pain may lead to neck stiffness and temporarily limits the range of motion.
Headaches without neck pain can also occur with cervicogenic headaches. When this happens, the source may not cause neck pain but will cause the neck to be sore. Sudden head movements or pressure on the back of the neck will still trigger CGH.
Other Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches
In addition to neck pain, other symptoms of cervicogenic headaches may include:
- Pain Radiating to Other Areas of the Body
- Shoulder and Arm Pain
- Pain on One Side
- Light Sensitivity
- Chronic Headache
Treatment of Cervicogenic Headache
There is no one specific treatment for CGH. Instead, a combination of different techniques may be utilized to decrease the pain. We’ll discuss a few options that are normally tried first.
CGH Treatment: Manual Therapy
Manual therapy involves manipulation and joint mobilization for CGH. In this method. procedures are focused around massage, physical therapy or other types of manipulation. When combined with exercise, manual therapy has shown to provide great outcomes. Spinal manipulative therapy may relieve pain by relieving some of the pressure from the joints and thus, improving nerve function.
CGH Treatment: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
Transcutaneous electrotherapy technique involves a device that produces a very low voltage electric current to stimulate the nerves. Electric currents are passed through electrodes, which are placed on sticky pads in the localized pain areas. This treatment is meant to stimulate the sensory nerves, and it is possible to control the frequency of the current in order to suit individual needs.
CGH Treatment: Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)
The IASTM technique involves an assessment into the deeper layers of tissues to identify restrictions within these tissues. This is performed using handheld instruments and running the affected area using different but specific massage techniques. These restrictions may form due to the development of scar tissue, fibrous muscle tissue, chronic inflammation or degeneration. Once Dr. Rodriguez identifies the restrictions, they are then mobilized by gently pulling or stretching with the help of special instruments that use traction force.
CGH Treatment: Medications
Dr. Rodriguez may choose to prescribe medications used for tension-type headaches, migraines, or neuralgias, otherwise known as nerve pain, to review cervicogenic headache pain. Some of the commonly used medications for CGH are:
- Botulinum Toxin
- Muscle Relaxants
- Anti-Epileptic Drugs
- Tri-Cyclic Antidepressants
While these medications do no cure CGH, they may provide enough relief to help the patient comply during therapy sessions, such as manual therapy or other rehabilitation programs.
CGH Treatment: Therapeutic Exercise
Sometimes, neck pain that stems from muscle imbalance, bad postures, etc. may be treated with special therapeutic exercises that focus on stretching and strengthening the neck muscle and surrounding muscles. Dr. Rodriguez may design a program specifically for your case.
CGH Treatment: Injection Procedures
- Radiofrequency Neurotomy
- Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection
- Cervical Intra-Articular Steroid Injection
CGH Treatment: Surgical Option
- Decompression and Microsurgical Neurolysis of the Nerves
- Arthrodesis of Atlanto-Axial Joints
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
- Cervical Disc Arthroplasty (CDA)