Cervicogenic Headache

What is it?

This is a headache related to neck problems that often begins at the top of the neck and moves into the head.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Headache symptoms relating to neck movement

  • Pain on pressure over the upper neck / base of skull regions

  • Restricted neck range of movement worsening headache

  • One sided neck / shoulder / arm pain

  • Episodes of varying duration

What should I look out for?

  • Most headaches aren’t due to any serious disease however if you start to experience any of the following symptoms in relation to your headaches then please ask for advice from your GP:

  • Dizziness of unknown cause

  • Double vision

  • Difficulty talking

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Sudden fainting attacks

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Facial numbness / pins and needles

  • Uncontrolled movements of the eyes

Mechanism of Injury

Anyone can get facet dysfunction but it commonly occurs from around 50 years of age. It can also occur in people who’ve had a history of accidents, heavy work or poor posture.

Common Management Techniques

What can I do to help prevent the headaches?

  • Maintain a good sitting posture

  • Avoid long periods of sitting or not moving in general

  • Ask your employer about having an appropriate workstation assessment

  • Avoid getting overtired to the point of exhaustion

  • Keep yourself well hydrated throughout the day

  • Exercise regularly to stimulate the circulation of blood to the head and to maintain neuromusculoskeletal flexibility

  • Try not to sleep on your stomach. Either sleep on your side with your head supported so that it is level with your spine, or on your back with a small pillow or rolled up towel supporting your neck rather than your head

  • Organise for an eye check to make sure this is not playing a part in the headaches.

  • All patients with cervicogenic headaches should be referred to a physiotherapist as well as using this advice to begin managing the symptoms.

  • Heat and massage. Applying a heat pack to the painful area may help. Massage using an analgesic balm (ie. Voltaren, Fisiocrem) can also relieve symptoms.

  • Sleeping and pillows. Avoid sleeping on too many pillows. Pillows should support the head without bending the neck to an angle.

  • Tailored Exercise. Keep neck mobile within your comfort zone. We can design gentle exercise that aids a more rapid recovery.

  • Posture. Keep a good posture during all tasks. As part of a patient’s treatment, our Physiotherapist’s will demonstrate how to achieve this.

  • Pain Relief. Medications prescribed by your GP, such as pain relief of anti-inflammatories can assist in reducing pain.

Physiotherapy Management

  • Deep Tissue Massage

  • Manual therapy – trigger point release

  • Dry Needling

  • Stretches

  • Strengthening of neck muscles


Often Cervicogenic headche is a transient and self-limiting condition that can recover in a matter of a few days.

The Physiotherapists at Palms Physiotherapy are skilled in treating neck ailments and can effectively assist with pain relief and rapid recovery.