Healthy Talk

Cervicogenic (Neck) Headache

Q.I have had headaches for years. I’ve was told they are migraines, but they do not respond well to migraine medications. I’ve stopped using caffeine with some improvements. I get them at least once a week and I have a very hard time getting through my day when I get them. Is there anything else I can do to make them go away?

A.

Dave Walters, PT, ATC
Dave Walters,
PT, ATC
You were right to quit caffeine, it can provide temporary relief (see the ingredients of most over the counter headache pills), but actually makes headaches worse in the long run as it clears from your system. According to the International Headache Society (IHS) there are multiple types of headaches. The most common primary ones are migraine, tension type, and cluster headaches. One recently described category is the cervicogenic (neck) headache. The cause is an abnormality in your neck that causes pain to radiate into your head. This can mimic a migraine, but isn’t the same.

With a “neck” headache there is pain where your head meets your neck and then radiates over the top of your head, sometimes to the forehead and behind your eyes. Research has shown these headaches to respond quickly to a combination of manual (or hands-on) therapy and exercise to correct the underlying cause (usually posture, flexibility and strength issues).

I recommend you see a physical therapist – a good one will perform an examination and quickly determine if they can help you to feel better. Call us and we’ll schedule you for a free consultation with one of our highly experienced, expert physical therapists. Please call us for any other questions you may have – helping people get moving and get their lives back is our reason for being here. Let us help.

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