Cervicogenic Headaches


Cervicogenic headaches are defined as secondary headaches and are currently thought to originate from dysfunction of the upper joints, discs, muscles, fascia or nerves of the neck (cervical spine), which then refer pain to the head. This may present symptomatically as a headache.  

Research has shown that up to 70% of headache sufferers report neck pain, with only 18% of these people having true cervicogenic headaches (CGH).

It is therefore important to differentiate this type of headache from the 2 other types: Migraines and tension-type headaches, which have symptoms that present quite differentially.


What are the symptoms?

Currently, three musculoskeletal impairments have been validated as clinical features of CGH, which aren’t present in migraine and tension-type headaches.

1.     Painful upper neck (cervical) joints

2.     A reduction in range of movement of the neck

3.     An impairment in the muscular system of the neck (cervical spine)

In addition to these, it is commonly reported that cervicogenic headaches will be:

  • Mainly one sided

  • Unlikely to switch sides

  • Associated with neck, shoulder or arm pain on the same side

  • Aggravated by neck movement or postures.

  • An ache that may begin behind the head and end up towards the front


What can our Physiotherapists do for you?

Physiotherapy may alleviate your headache symptoms if they originate as a cervicogenic headache.

Following a thorough assessment of the neck (cervical spine) for musculoskeletal impairments as well as screening for potential Red flags, our Physiotherapists will work with you to treat your headaches accordingly.

This may be achieved by:

  • Allowing movement to the joints in the upper part of the neck

  • Softening the often-tight upper shoulder musculature

  • Strengthening the sometimes-weak deep muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back for improved spinal posture and alignment. 


If you would like to discuss management options with our Physiotherapists regarding your headache symptoms, call us on 03 9370 1888.