Cervicogenic Headache: More than a migraine

Cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache, which means that it is caused by another illness or physical issue.

Cervicogenic headaches are often confused for migraines, making it difficult to distinguish between the two. However, the main point of differentiation is that while a migraine headache stems from the brain, a cervicogenic headache is rooted in the cervical spine (neck) or base of the skull region.


Headaches are often a result of eyestrain, stress, tiredness, or trauma. But Cervicogenic headaches are unique because their cause is related to the nerves, bones, or neck muscles.


Symptoms of a cervicogenic headache

Along with throbbing head pain, a cervicogenic headache may have the following symptoms:

  • pain on one side of your head or face
  • stiff neck
  • pain around the eyes
  • pain while coughing or sneezing
  • a headache with certain neck postures or movement

Cervicogenic headaches can also cause additional symptoms such as light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, blurry vision, and an upset stomach.


Managing cervicogenic headaches

A cervicogenic headache can be debilitating and recurrent, but several techniques can help you manage pain and prevent further occurrences.

Your doctor will first confirm that you have a cervicogenic headache by applying pressure to different parts of your neck or base of your head to determine the origin of the pain, and to see if a particular spot is triggering a headache. Your doctor may also see if different neck positioning provokes a headache to occur. If either of these things cause a headache, this means the headache is cervicogenic. Treatment options then, include the following:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy (including physical therapy, manual therapy, acupuncture, myofacial release
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