Cervicogenic Headache: Symptoms and Diagnosis
Cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache and is often called as referred pain (pain that is considered occurring in any part of the body other than its original source) perceived in the head but the source comes from the neck. A secondary headache here means that it is caused by another illness or any other physical problem. Cervicogenic headache is perceived as a type of disorder of cervical spine as well as its component bony, soft tissue or disc elements. Learn more about these headaches by knowing the symptoms and what you can do about it.
In most cases, cervicogenic headache have symptoms similar to that of migraine headache. Pain may emerge intermittently and then begin to spread to one side (unilateral) of one’s head and then the pain starts to become continuous. This type of headache occurs in the form of non-throbbing and steady pain at the back as well as base of the skull. In most cases, the pain might extend downward into the neck and then ending in the shoulder blades. You might also feel the pain the area of your brow and forehead despite the fact that the problem starts from the cervical spine.
Usually, you will start to feel the pain after a sudden neck movement like sneezing. Then neck or head pain will occur too. Cervicogenic headache usually shows these early symptoms:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stiff neck
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Pain in one or both arms
- Mobility difficulties
Below are some of the risk factors that are sometimes involved in aggravate cervicogenic headache.
- Poor posture
- Sleep difficulties
- Cervical disc issues
- Muscular stress
- Prior or current neck injuries
Cervicogenic Headache Diagnosis
The diagnosis of this illness begins with a detailed medical history along with a physical as well as neurological examination. Some of the tests include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- CT scans
- Nerve block injections to verify the cause
Then, when you have been positively diagnosed with cervicogenic headache, your doctor usually recommend an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin and aleve. If those prove to be defective then you will be prescribed with anti-inflammation and pain reliever drugs. Below are some of effective other treatment options listed in order of non-invasive to invasive ones.
- Spinal manipulation and other manual therapies
- Behavioral approaches such as biofeedback
- Trigger point injections
- Facet joint blocks (it is a type of spinal joint injection)
- Nerve blocks (one of the medical branches of the nerves which supplies the facet joints)
- Radiofrequency pulse ganglionotomy of the nerve root like C2 and C3
- Spine surgery in order to relieve vascular or nerve compression
The last one, however, is rarely necessary.
For your information, the term cervicogenic headache doesn’t only relate to headache associated with neck pain because many headache disorders such as tension-type headache and migraine also can have associated neck tension.
Remember that if you have cervicogenic headache, treatment for this illness should target the source of the pain in the neck.