What’s a Cervicogenic Headache and What are its Probable Causes?

What’s a Cervicogenic Headache and What are its Probable Causes?

Do you experience headaches that start from the neck up? Does your neck feel stiff and unable to move? If so, it might be time to get checked for cervicogenic headaches. 

What is a cervicogenic headache?

The cervical spine, or the neck, is made up of seven vertebrae, known as C1 to C7. A throbbing pain experienced in this area that spreads toward the front of the head is called a cervicogenic headache (CH). It has similar symptoms to cluster headaches and migraines, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Even trickier is the fact that it can happen alongside other types of headaches, as discussed by the National Pain Report.

According to recent figures from StatPearls, CH is rare and typically occurs in people aged 30 to 44 years old. Though researchers explain that the pain doesn’t reach excruciating intensity, CH can still be very tough to live with. Aside from headache-like pain, its symptoms include a stiffness or pain in the neck, pain around the eyes, light and noise sensitivity, blurry vision, and nausea. There may even be discomfort in deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing.

What causes cervicogenic headaches?

CH is classified as secondary, which means that the actual headache is caused by an underlying condition. There are several risk factors to this specific type of headache, many of which can be easily remedied. 

One common cause is sleeping in uncomfortable positions, which is known to cause neck problems that can manifest as a headache. You might even wake up with a lack of mobility in the neck that could affect your daily tasks, like driving. Poor posture can also contribute to this pain. 

In addition, muscular stress and chronic fatigue increase the risk of CH. 

If you have or have had, neck injuries, such as whiplash from a car accident that might also be the reason behind your neck pain and headache. Patients who’ve had problems with their spine, particularly in the cervical region, are more susceptible to experiencing CH. 

CH may also be attributed to age-related chronic illnesses, including hypertension and arthritis in the upper spine. Statistics gathered by Maryville University point to a rapidly aging population, and an increase in chronic illness in America. In fact, around half of the population is expected to suffer some form of chronic illness by 2025, while 4 in 10 Americans currently suffer from two or more chronic illnesses. As the numbers continue to rise, there will also be an increase in the number of cases related to conditions like CH. This means that we need to be more mindful of our own personal health, even if it is addressing something as common as a headache.

How can you treat cervicogenic headaches?

There are several modes of treatment for CH. The first thing you can do at home is to ensure that you’re getting a healthy amount of sleep in the correct position. Some sleeping tips previously posted here on Tauberg Chiropractor and Rehabilitation, such as sleeping on your side instead of on your stomach, can help minimize the risk of neck or head pain. During the day, you must also be mindful of your posture and give your spine well-deserved stretches from time to time. 

If the pain won’t go away with home remedies, effective medication includes muscle relaxers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin. These are available over the counter and are widely affordable. In any case, addressing the underlying condition is the more crucial approach. 

Author Bio: Composed by Bonnie James for thepittsburghchiropractor.com

Bonnie James is a health practitioner with a passion for helping people be at their best. When she’s not working, Bonnie enjoys yoga and urban gardening.