By Courtney Lethridge – Physiotherapist

Cervicogenic Headaches: Prevention and Management

A Cervicogenic headache is a pain that develops in the neck, though a person feels the pain in their head.  It is often accompanied by neck pain and limited range of motion. This type of headache typically sits at either the base of the skull, or over the head and feels like it sits behind the eyes. It may occur on only one side of the head or both, at differing or same severities. Cervicogenic headaches may also present with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, tinnitus, gut issues or mild visual disturbances.

Key Management Strategies for Cervicogenic Headaches:

1. Muscle relaxation strategies
This can include targeted massage or dry needling by your physiotherapist to release muscle tension and improve range of motion in your neck. You can also assist this at home by completing stretches for your neck, and using a spikey or massage ball to aid muscle release.

2. Activity maintenance
This can include ensuring your work environment and other regular daily tasks have good ergonomic setup. Make sure you are regularly changing positions throughout the day. It’s important that if your job involves sedentary or repetitive work that you have regular breaks; even just a minute or two! To get yourself in the habit, set a timer so that you have a reminder to get up and move every hour.

3. Joint targeting strategies
Your physiotherapist can do specific manual therapies to your joints that may be affected, particularly in your upper cervical spine (top few levels of your neck closest to the skull). They can also teach you home-methods such as specific movement to help self-manage and take an active role in your treatment.

4. Sleep management
Sleep is one of the most important things when your body is injured or inflamed. It is essential to get at least 7 hours of deep sleep to allow your body to fully recover. You should use a comfortable pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position. It’s also important to utilise good pre-sleep habits so that your body winds down and prepares for sleep, such as turning off screens at least an hour before sleep and establishing a night time routine.

5. Exercises for motor control of cervical and thoracic spine (neck and upper back)
Your physiotherapist can teach you specific exercises to improve your function and motor control around your neck and upper back. Particularly if this is a recurrent issue, to improve neck strength and control so that you can stop this cycle of recurrence.

If you are experiencing Cervicogenic headaches, don’t put up with it, call us to make an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists. Call (08) 6389 2947 or click here to book online

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