Having headaches? Learn what might be causing them and what you can do about it!

Headaches….we’ve all had them.
Headaches that are caused from the cervical spine are termed cervicogenic headaches. They typically manifest from an issue involving the bony structures in your neck such as a previous injury, concussion, whiplash, stiffness, or muscle imbalances.

Signs and Symptoms:
- Triggered by neck movements or sustained neck positions
- Complain of it feeling like a “locking” sensation in the neck
- Usually on one side
- Neck pain usually occurs prior to the headache
- Neck stiffness
- Trigger points or knots in the muscles of the upper neck
- Associated symptoms can be like a migraine; dizziness, nausea, throbbing, etc

Mechanism: The mechanism for why these heachaches occur is thought to be related to the trigeminal nucleus, which supplies sensory and motor information to your neck. Abnormal movement or dysfunction in the joints within the first 3 vertebra of the neck can lead to irritation causing a headache.

Treatments:
Typically, over the counter or prescribed medications aren’t effective and don’t provide the level of relief you need. At Refine Physical Therapy, we utilize a comprehensive approach by looking at contributing factors, assessing for muscle imbalances, and joint stiffness.

Manual therapy such as joint mobilization, manipulation, and dry needling are combined with exercises for reinforcement. This combination is used to help alleviate cervicogenic headaches, and typically clients can be feeling better within 2-3 sessions.

Pictures below depict various treatment strategies for cervicogenic headaches (left to right): scapular/thoracic mobilizations, self upper cervical mobilizations, and cervical mobilizations and/or manipulation.

If you’ve been having headaches and would like to get more information email questions to mandy@refinephysicaltherapy or visit www.refinephysicaltherapy.com. We would be happy to answer your questions!