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Cervicogenic Headaches


Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are a type of headache that originates from the neck as a result of structural issues in the neck (e.g., joints, muscles, nerves).

These headaches present with a dull pain that is often accompanied by stiffness and soreness in the neck. The pain may also radiate to other areas of the head, including the temples, the back of the head, and the eyes.

Cervicogenic headaches stem from several factors, including poor posture, injury, and degenerative conditions of the neck.

On this page, we will cover the causes and symptoms of cervicogenic headaches, then switch gears to how chiropractic care can help patients with this condition.

What are the causes of cervicogenic headaches?

The causes of cervicogenic headaches are multifactorial but mainly revolve around an injury to the neck and head. Learning more about these causes can help you prevent cervicogenic headaches and improve your management plan.


Trauma to the neck from a car accident or sports injury can cause cervicogenic headaches. Injuries to the cervical spine can cause damage to the nerves, muscles, and joints in the neck, leading to pain and stiffness.

Cervicogenic headaches may arise immediately after the injury or after a while. They can also present with other symptoms, including neck pain, dizziness, and blurred vision.

Degenerative conditions

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and degenerative disc disease can all cause pain and stiffness in the neck, precipitating cervicogenic headaches. These conditions can cause the joints in the neck to become inflamed, leading to pain and stiffness.

Degenerative disc disease is another condition that causes the discs to herniate, compressing the nerves and causing headaches.

Poor posture

Sitting or standing in a fixed position for long periods of time can cause strain on the neck muscles, leading to cervicogenic headaches. This is especially true if the position is not ergonomic and causes muscle tension.


A sudden jerking motion of the head and neck causes injury to the muscles and joints of the neck. Whiplash can also cause strain on the muscles and ligaments of the neck, as well as injury to the joints and discs.

Learn more about this condition by clicking here (insert).

Tension in the neck muscles

Stress and tension in the neck muscles often lead to pain and stiffness in the neck. Consequently, your risk of cervicogenic headaches increases. This can be the result of emotional stress, poor posture, and the overuse of the neck muscles.

Abnormalities in the cervical spine

Herniated discs compress the nerves in the neck and cause headaches. This condition can occur due to degeneration of the spine or injury.

What are the signs and symptoms of cervicogenic headaches?

The signs and symptoms of cervicogenic headaches are diverse and include:

Deep, dull pain – The pain is usually located on one side of the head and may be described as a band-like sensation.

Neck pain and stiffness – Pain and stiffness in the neck are often present. These symptoms may get worse with certain movements or positions.

Radiating pain – The pain may radiate from the neck to other areas of the head, such as the temples, the back of the head, and the eyes.

Limited range of motion – Your articular range of motion will get restricted due to the pain and stiffness.

Tenderness – The neck and surrounding area may be tender to the touch.

Nausea – Some people with cervicogenic headaches may experience nausea or dizziness due to severe pain.

Tingling or numbness – There may be tingling or numbness in the arms or hands.

The complications of cervicogenic headaches

Cervicogenic headaches can lead to numerous complications if left untreated. Here are some of these complications:

Chronic headaches – Cervicogenic headaches can become chronic if the underlying cause is not addressed. This can lead to a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to function.

Medication overuse – Taking pain medication frequently to manage cervicogenic headaches can lead to medication overuse headaches. This may be more difficult to treat compared to cervicogenic headaches.

Sleep disturbances – Cervicogenic headaches can cause sleep disturbances, which can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Depression and anxiety – Chronic headaches can lead to depression and anxiety as a result of the constant pain and the negative impact on the person’s ability to function.

Secondary headaches – Cervicogenic headaches can be the cause of other types of headaches, such as migraines.

How chiropractic care can help with cervicogenic headaches

Researchers investigated the effectiveness of chiropractic care in treating cervicogenic headaches. This is in an attempt to unveil non-pharmacological treatments that actually help with chronic pain.

Enter – Chiropractic care.

One study enrolled 60 patients with cervicogenic headaches. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either chiropractic adjustments or a placebo for 8 weeks. The study found that the group receiving chiropractic adjustments experienced a significant reduction in headache frequency, intensity, and disability compared to the placebo group.

Another study published in 2002 enrolled 45 patients with cervicogenic headaches. The patients received chiropractic adjustments for 4 weeks. The results showed that the frequency, intensity, and disability associated with the headaches were significantly lower in the majority of patients.

Finally, a randomized controlled trial included 160 participants with cervicogenic headaches. The study found that chiropractic care was as effective as medical care in reducing the frequency and intensity of cervicogenic headaches and decreasing the use of medication.

Overall, these studies suggest that chiropractic care can be an effective treatment option for individuals with cervicogenic headaches.

Takeaway message

Using chiropractic care to resolve cervicogenic headaches and other types of chronic pain is a powerful tool to avoid using medications. The available research suggests that chiropractic adjustment reduces the severity and frequency of cervicogenic headaches.

We hope that this article managed to highlight the role of chiropractic care in the management of cervicogenic headaches.

If you are ready to relieve your chronic pain and take your health back in control, reach out to us via the contact us page!