There are many different types of headaches. Although not all headaches are the same, they all share at least one thing in common – they cause pain. But many headaches also cause other unwanted symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. Although most headaches do not come from the neck, this article refers to a cervicogenic headache that, by definition, is any headache that is caused by the neck.

If you suffer from frequent, painful headaches which don’t seem to be alleviated by the typical medications, you may be experiencing cervicogenic headaches. Caused by referred neck pain, these headaches are felt in the oculofrontal-temporal region of the head, which is located behind the eyes, temples, and the back of the head. These headaches can range from small outbreaks of pain to a continuous throbbing; patients may also experience neck pain and stiffness, which can become so severe they cannot move.

What causes cervicogenic headaches?

Since the brain isn’t always very adept at detecting the exact location of neck pain, it can sometimes mistake pain in the upper cervical spine (neck) as a headache. Pain can be aggravated by poor posture, a previous or current injury, spinal disc problems, repetitive neck movements, and sleeping problems. Any excessive stress on your neck can cause you to develop cervicogenic headaches.

What are the symptoms?

Since the symptoms of cervicogenic headaches are similar to those of migraines and cluster headaches, many people may be misdiagnosed. The majority of the pain will be felt in the head, but it can also be located down into the neck and shoulder blades. Many patients will report feeling a steady pain at the back of their skull, their brow, and forehead.

Additional symptoms experienced from cervicogenic headaches include trouble moving, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and pain down the arms.

What are the treatment options for cervicogenic headaches?

To be diagnosed, your doctor will need to perform a physical examination, as well as take some x-rays, which will include a cervical spine x-ray. They can then give you nerve blocks to help locate the exact nerve the pain is originating from. This nerve block consists of an injection of an anesthetic to a specific nerve; if the pain is relieved, then that is the area causing your symptoms.

Once diagnosed with cervicogenic headaches, patients may be prescribed pain medications, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), or anti-seizure medications, as well as some non-invasive methods. The best course of treatment will typically combine the use of medication, behavior modifications, and physical therapy.

While there is no clear prevention strategy for cervicogenic headaches, physicians recommend sticking to a healthy diet and making sure you have proper posture while sitting and standing to decrease any unnecessary stress on your neck.

Since cervicogenic headache is a relatively common cause of chronic headache that is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized, consult with a doctor at Integrated Pain Management to ensure that your condition is correctly diagnosed and treated.

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Dr. Roofian specializes in treating cervicogenic headaches, a head pain that originates in the neck.

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Shawn Roofian, MD, Beverly Hills, CA
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Shawn Roofian, MD, Tarzana, CA
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