Cervicogenic headache is a chronic headache that develops from the neck (atlanto-occipital and upper cervical joints) and feels the pain on the head and face one or more than one area. This type of headache is a secondary headache, which is often misdiagnosed due to their clinical presentation is complex and similar with the primary headache syndromes.
The common symptoms of cervicogenic headache
- Dull, moderate to severe intensity pain
- Pain on one side of the head or face (unilateral pain)
- Pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm on the one side
- Pain starting from the back of the neck and head then radiating along the forehead, eye, temple, and ear
- Headache related with certain neck movements
- Neck stiffness
- Tightness and trigger points in neck muscle such as upper trapezius, levator scapulae, scales and suboccipital extensors
- Blurred vision in one eye
The causes for cervicogenic headache can come from problems in the neck (bone, joints, or neck muscles), which may from poor posture while sitting or standing at work or home. Using laptop or smartphone can lead that person to hold their heads out in front of their bodies (forward head posture) and increases weight on the neck and upper back. Standing or sitting in forward head position for long time can increase the pressure or stress on the neck especially upper cervical spine, which can be triggering a cervicogenic headache. Moreover, some people can also develop cervicogenic headaches after an car accident, which causes the neck injury as whiplash syndrome.
The treatments for cervicogenic headache vary depending on severity and irritability of symptom in each person.
- Manual therapy: massage, joint mobilisation and manipulation
- Manual therapy used to restore mobility of joint stiffness and reduce muscle tension. Manipulation treatment can reduce the pain by relieve the pressure in the joint.
- Heat and ice therapy: Heat can be used to decrease pain and tension of muscle (muscle spasm) on the neck and posterior part of head. Ice can be used to decrease the inflammation or acute pain.
- Exercise: stretching muscles, straightening exercise and re-educating muscles The cause of cervicogenic headache come from the neck and also relate with the muscle imbalance, forward head postures, and rounded shoulders. All of this problem can be treated with therapeutic exercises, which focus on strengthening and stretching the neck and its also supporting muscles.
- Electrotherapy: The electricity stimulates the nerves (sensory nerve) and then its produce a tingling sensation around the area of the electrodes, which can reduce the pain.
Traditional chinese medicine
- Acupuncture: Using a needle into the acupoints to revitalize the body balance, which acts as an immune booster. This treatment can decrease stress level and increase blood circulation in the body.
- Dry needling: A treatment technique that inserts the needle into the muscle for decreasing pain and releasing the knots in the muscle (myofascial trigger points).
- Cupping: Using a fire for creating a suction effect inside the cups to rise the skin and lead the blood to the skin surface. This technique can reduce the muscle tension, decrease the pain and increase blood flow.