Last updated on January 6th, 2023 at 12:02 pm
Can cervicogenic headaches be cured? This depends on the underlying neck condition causing the pain. Some injuries can be cured with therapy, whilst others may never resolve…
Cervicogenic headaches can occur due to problems related to the neck. The causes can be neck injuries, occipital nerve blocks, or a whiplash injury.
Physical therapy can help relax the neck muscles. Along with medication and other options, it can help cure cervicogenic headaches.
How long can a cervicogenic headache last?
According to the International headache society, a cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache. It is a rare type of headache that can be chronic.
The pain of the cervicogenic headache is dull. It can last from a few hours to a few days. It is possible that the pain may worsen.
There are two headache types, primary headaches and secondary headaches. Since a cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache, the cause needs to be treated to make it go away.
Cervicogenic headache exercises
Since neck pain is one of the main reasons for cervicogenic headache, relieving neck pain is important. Exercise can be very helpful in treating this headache.
Joint mobilization or manipulation of the cervical spine can help provide relief. Various exercises can help improve the range of motion by strengthening the neck muscles.
The trigeminal nerve has a role to play in cervicogenic headache with inflammation causing the pain. Structured exercise can help reduce the pain.
The cervical vertebrae can have structural problems that can lead to pain. Spinal manipulation can help treat the problem and provide relief.
It is important that the exercise be done in the right way to prevent worsening of pain. The guidance of a therapist or chiropractor can be taken for this.
Symptoms of cervicogenic headaches
Head injury, neck injury, compression of nerves, or arthritis can cause cervicogenic headaches.
There are different types of headaches we need to talk about
- Tension headaches are caused usually by stress. Tension-type headaches are located in the front of the head and can affect the neck.
- Migraine headaches are caused by certain triggers. The pain is experienced in the side of the head and can last for hours or even days.
- Cluster headaches are focused in the eye region. It can last for a very long time and occur repeatedly.
All the above are primary headaches, but a cervicogenic headache is secondary. Since it is usually related to the neck, the pain is mostly in the back of your head.
The pain can be felt in the base of the skull. It can even be felt in the front of the head. Some people experience back pain too.
- Pain in the neck and surrounding areas including shoulder blades and arm.
- Pain around the eyes (resembling a cluster headache).
- Pain in the head on movement to a particular position.
- Nausea with sensitivity to light and noise (resembling migraine).
- Blurred vision.
As can be seen, it is possible that cervicogenic headache may be confused with cluster headaches or migraine. The doctor would therefore try to eliminate any other type of headache before coming to a conclusion.
Physical neck and head manipulation would be done to find out if symptoms change. An MRI scan can help in diagnosis.
Proper diagnosis is needed, so the root cause can be treated.
How to treat cervicogenic headache?
The treatment and management of cervicogenic headaches can be done best once the root cause is identified. This is importance since this is a secondary headache that has a specific cause.
The treatment options include:
- Medication: Both over the counter medication and prescription medication can help provide relief from pain. Apart from NSAIDs, muscle relaxant medicines, and even antidepressants can be prescribed.
- Nerve block: An injection can be given to numb the nerves. This not only provides relief but helps the doctor pinpoint the source of the pain.
- Therapy: It is very important to undergo therapy, so the root cause is address. A physical therapist can do spinal manipulation of the upper cervical spine to provide relief. When the trigger points are identified, therapy works better.
- SNAG: SNAG or Sustained Natural Apophyseal Glide is a therapy technique done using a towel. It helps reduce pain and can be done at home too.
- Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure where radio waves are sent to the nerve causing the pain. It ensures the nerve stops sending pain signals, thereby offering pain relief.
- TENS: In Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, electrodes are placed to stimulate nerves in the affected region.
Cervicogenic headache treatment at home
Pain relief from a cervicogenic headache can be obtained through home treatment. Manual therapy can be done at home.
A therapist would teach various exercises that include neck movements. Doing these exercises along with stretching can help reduce pain in the long run.
You need to develop good posture, since in many cases wrong posture can be the reason for the pain.
Sitting in the wrong type of chair or using the wrong type of pillow can strain the neck. It is important to fix all these, so the problem is resolved.
Cervicogenic headache tumor
A tumor can cause chronic headaches and this can be true for cervicogenic headaches. In most cases, a cervicogenic headache occurs due to neck-related issues.
In some cases, there could be a tumor in the head, neck, or spine that is causing the pain. It is important to diagnose this, so the right treatment is possible.
Without resolving the problem of the tumor, treatments will fail, and the pain will recur. The tumor may need to be surgically removed or treated using other methods.
Cervicogenic headache sleeping posture
It is a known fact that poor posture can cause neck pain. The posture you use when you sit and when you sleep can cause cervicogenic headaches.
When you sleep, the best position is sleeping flat on the back. Large and soft pillow must be avoided. The pillow must be firm and not lift the head too much.
Placing a pillow under the knees is recommended, so the spine remains in a neutral position. This is the natural body alignment and is recommended.
This posture can help prevent the neck muscles from straining and nerves from being compressed. It is important to correct the posture to get a long-term solution to this problem.
Cervicogenic headache NHS
According to the NHS, UK a cervicogenic headache is headache related to the neck. It starts with pain at the top of the neck and then moves to the back of the head, spreading to other areas.
Simple exercises can help manage this condition better. They include:
- Turning the head left and right for 5 times.
- Tilt the head slowly towards the left and then right shoulder – repeat 5 times.
- Shrug the shoulders up, back, and then around. Relax and repeat 5 times.
- Tuck the chin to the chest, hold for 3 seconds, and then move back to normal. Repeat for 5 times.
- Stretch both hands overhead one by one as high as possible. Repeat 5 times.
- Sit arms across chest and turn the trunk to each side and hold 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
If any of the exercises worsen the pain, they must be stopped and the matter reported to the therapist/doctor.
FAQs relating to can cervicogenic headaches be cured
If you want to read more about cervicogenic headaches and whether they can be cured, go through the FAQs given below.
Do cervicogenic headaches ever go away?
A cervicogenic headache is unlikely to go away on its own. The reason is that it a secondary headache caused by a problem in the neck.
Until the root cause is solved, the headache won’t go away. The pain may reduce but can return. Treatment of the root cause is needed to make the headache go away.
It is very important to consult a doctor to ensure the headache goes away permanently. Relying on OTC medication will not help solve the problem.
How do you get rid of a cervicogenic headache?
The head pain from a cervicogenic headache can be treated through any of the following measures:
- Medication – both OTC and prescription.
- Therapy that can be done by a therapist or at home.
- Neck exercises.
- Nerve block injection.
- Other methods like acupuncture, relaxation techniques, and yoga.
What kind of doctor treats cervicogenic headache?
A cervicogenic headache is related to the neck. The neck vertebrae and muscles are affected. Hence, an orthopedic doctor would treat cervicogenic headache.
It is also possible that the headache occurs due to pressure on the nerves. In such cases, a neurosurgeon may be required to treat the condition. This is especially true if surgery is needed to solve the problem.
What is the first treatment of cervicogenic headache?
The first treatment for a cervicogenic headache is physical therapy. When done under the guidance of a professional therapist or chiropractor, headache sufferers can get relief immediately.
Since the problem is usually related to the neck muscles and nerves, therapy is the best way to resolve the problem. It usually helps fix the root cause and hence is the best treatment option.