If you’ve been suffering from migraine headaches, what you might not know is that there are many different types of headaches, which often get misdiagnosed. Because of this, we frequently see patients who have suffered for years, trying multiple medications and treatments, all with little to no relief. Why? Because they have been diagnosed with “migraine” or “tension” headaches, when in reality, one of the most commonly misdiagnosed headaches types is cervicogenic.
What Makes A Cervicogenic Headache Different From Migraines?
Simply put, a cervicogenic headache means a headache that is originating from your neck. The headache you feel is a type of referred pain, meaning the pain is felt in an area different than the source or cause. Typically, the issue lies in the upper joints and muscles of the neck, which leads to decreased neck range of motion and increased tightness/stiffness.
How To Identify Cervicogenic Headaches?
- Cervicogenic headaches are usually unilateral, meaning they occur on one side of the head and face.
- The pain typically starts in the back of the head or neck (around the base of the skull) and radiates to the front and around the eye. This is often referred to as the “ram’s horn” pattern because of the location of the symptoms.
- Neck pain and stiffness usually occurs at the same time of the headache.
- The headache is usually brought on by prolonged static postures or awkward neck movements. This could be anything from sitting at your work desk for too long, staying up late studying for an exam, or lifting overhead with your neck in an awkward position.
How To Help It?
Mobilize the joints in your upper neck.
Decrease muscle tension with exercises such as a lacrosse ball sub-occipital release.
Stretch your upper back with the prayer stretch.
Move often – There’s no perfect posture, as any position can cause discomfort if you stay in it for too long. Your best posture is your next posture, and we recommend changing positions frequently throughout your day. Try not to stay in any one posture for longer than 20-30 min at a time.
See A Physical Therapist – We recommend seeing a physical therapist who specializes in neck pain and headaches. Once the type of headache is properly diagnosed, the treatments can often reduce your headache rapidly and dramatically.