May 01, 2019

Headaches, they can be debilitating and prevent you from doing your day-to-day activities. Cervicogenic headaches (CGH) are headaches in which the pain originates from structures in the neck1. The reason this is possible is because spinal nerves that arise from the upper neck are connected to certain cranial nerves in the brain. Therefore, injuries in the neck that cause pain have the potential of travelling into the head. The prevalence of CGH's is estimated to be 2.2%1 with whiplash associated disorders being a major cause2.

There are several types of headaches and CGH are one of the types that can be managed by physical therapists. Being able to tell the difference between different types of headaches is critical for optimal management and in preventing a misdiagnosis of a more severe problem. Figure 1 shows the different characteristics of 3 types of headaches. If you are unaware of the type of headache you have, visiting your family physician is a good first step to take.



If you have confirmation from a health professional that your headaches are truly CGH's, then physical therapy can be very effective3! Some of the treatments your physical therapist can provide for you include:


  1. Posture correction (Figure 2)3
  2. Spinal manipulation or mobilization
  3. Muscle stretches
  4. Deep neck flexor training
  5. Upper limb strength training 


To find out if physical therapy can help you, visit your nearest Active Physio Works clinic location in Edmonton, St. Albert and Fort Saskatchewan for an assessment and treatment today!


1)     Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society. The international classification of headache disorders.2nd edition. Cephalalgia 2004;24:suppl 2)     Antonaci F, Sjaastad O. Cervicogenic headache: a real headache. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2011;4:149-155
3)     Page P, Cervicogenic headaches: An evidence-led approach to clinical management, The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, Volume 6, Nr 3, September 2011


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