Headaches and Migraines

Headaches affect almost half of the population. Fifteen to twenty percent of all headaches arise from problems in the neck and are classified as “cervicogenic headache.” The most common trigger for cervicogenic headache is limited movement of the joints in your upper cervical spine. Normally, each of the joints in your neck move freely and independently. Sometimes, restrictions in the upper cervical spine initiate a painful cycle of stiffness, muscle tightness and joint inflammation. This may cause irritation to the sensitive nerves leading from your neck into the back of your head.

Cervicogenic headaches are most commonly one-sided, but occasionally may be present on both sides of the head. Pain often radiates from the base of your skull toward the top of your head and sometimes over your eyes. In rare instances, the pain may travel into your arm. These headache episodes may last from hours to days. The pain is continuous but fluctuating and is often described as “deep.”  You may also notice chronic neck tenderness and stiffness.

Cervicogenic headache symptoms may be triggered or reproduced by awkward movements and postures. The condition is more common in patients who have recently experienced trauma, especially a motor vehicle accident or an earlier concussion. The condition often affects middle-aged adults and is more common in women at a rate of four to one. Cervicogenic headaches are sometimes accompanied by poor posture, including a “slouched” or “forward head” posture.

Be sure to tell us if you notice your headaches are becoming progressively worse over time, if you experience sudden onset of a severe headache, a new or unfamiliar headache, or if you notice significant neck stiffness, rash, numbness or tingling on your face, light-headedness, dizziness, loss of consciousness, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, difficulty walking, nausea, numbness radiating into your arms or legs, or fever.

Being dehydrated can aggravate or cervicogenic headaches.  Make sure that you are drinking 6-8 glasses of water each day, more in hot weather or when you’ve been sweating. Since cervicogenic headaches result from a mechanical problem, medicines are often ineffective. Fortunately, our office has several tools to help solve this problem.

Our treatment options:

  • Spinal adjustment

  • Electrical stimulation or spinalator

  • Muscle work and stretching

  • Exercises

  • Acupuncture