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Physiotherapy for Cervicogenic Headaches

cervicogenic headache is any headache that is triggered by the muscles and joints in the cervical spine. These headaches are typically described as a dull ache, which is usually experienced on one side of the head, and typically around the eye, forehead, temple or base of the skull. It can be intermittent or constant in nature, depending on the chronicity of the issue, mechanical factors (severity of muscle tightness, joint tightness) and psychosocial factors (stress, anxiety, depression etc). People can also experience a pulling or gripping sensation, or a feeling of a band of constriction around their head.

These headaches generally have a gradual onset. Typically a person will wake with a headache, or sustain a headache throughout the day as a result of sustained postures or occupational stresses.

Cervicogenic headaches are generally associated with neck pain or stiffness, and may be aggravated with repetitive head or neck movements. Posture plays a significant factor in the tightening of these neck joints and muscles. The abnormal posture typically seen with this presentation is an ‘Upper Crossed’ pattern, characterised by rounded shoulders, a forward head poke with extension through the upper cervical spine and a protruded chin.

Your physiotherapist can typically palpate and identify the cervical segment that is responsible for your headache symptoms.

Treatment of this condition requires two major components. Firstly, restoration of joint and muscle abnormalities. This may include massage, joint mobilisation, stretches or dry needling which all aim to restore normal length to the muscles around the neck and mobility to the joints of the spine.

Secondly, your physiotherapist will identify and treat contributing factors. This may include postural retraining, such as strengthening your deep cervical neck flexor muscles, correcting your rounded shoulder posture and engaging your midback and core musculature to ensure a more upright posture.

Your physiotherapists at Move Physiotherapy are experts in management of cervicogenic headaches. Follow the link to book online.

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