Headache and Migraine Specialists

Headache &
Migraine Specialists

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Cervicogenic Headache

The International Headache Society does classify some headaches as being “cervicogenic” or “originating from disorders from the head and neck”. Its existence is not in doubt, but in our experience as well as that of numerous other clinicians and the many thousands of patients who have been successfully treated long term with our approach, the incidence of cervicogenic headache is considerably underestimated.

Assume that your neck is one of the causes of your headache until proven otherwise by an expert

Without expert assessment of the joints and soft tissues of the neck a cervicogenic headache cannot be ruled out especially given that lots different types of headaches, including migraine and tension type headache, present in very similar ways.


With cervicogenic headache, normal sensory information from the trigeminal nerves (the ones that supply the head and face) becomes misinterpreted as pain information due to simultaneous and prolonged pain information coming from the neck.

This is possible as both of these sensory inputs share the same junction in the brain stem with the nerves that then pass up to the sensory cortex, the part of the brain where we perceive pain. When the brain stem is in a sensitised state these messages reaching the sensory cortex are, in effect, blurred into one rather than being identified as discrete messages from each different source.

Cervicogenic Headache – A Common Condition

Interestingly, patients with cervicogenic headache often complain of very little neck pain, it may be that their necks are just stiff. This is still ‘warning’ type information that something is not quite right.

Our experience tells us that cervicogenic headache is so common that it should considered a strong possibility until disproved otherwise by a Physiotherapist specialising in this field. This is supported by a recent study in which 34 patients with both migraines and tension type headaches were examined by a Physiotherapist specialising in the assessment and treatment of headaches.  In all but one of these patients, the examiner was able to reproduce the same migraine pain or tension type headache those patients were familiar with during an actual headache attack whilst examining the joints and soft tissues of the upper cervical spine. Whilst there are limitations to this study, it does provide compelling evidence that there is a huge degree of over lap between different types of headache and gives headache and migraine sufferers a genuine alternative to medical treatment, one that has proven to be quick and effective and without reliance on medication.

Warning: Please ensure that you have consulted a doctor regarding your headache or migraine. Most headaches and migraines are non-life threatening however it is advisable to seek the opinion of your GP or Neurologist if you develop sudden or severe symptoms, especially if these are different from previous attacks.

International Headache Society. Cervicogenic Headaches are a Common Condition & Many Migraine & Tension Type Headaches are also Cervicogenic Headaches. Pain Killing Medication Over-Use Headaches. MRI Brain Scans Not Always Beneficial.

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