Cervicogenic headache (CGH) is a type of headache that originates from the neck. It is caused by irritation or dysfunction of the cervical spine, which can refer pain to the head and face.
The referral patterns of CGH can vary, but they typically involve the occipital region (back of the head), the temporal region (temples), and the periorbital region (around the eyes). The pain may be unilateral or bilateral, and it can be dull, sharp, or throbbing. After a head-strike, cervicogenic headaches can linger and not be treated, causing ongoing pain and worry in patients that the cause of their discomfort is more severe or caused by more sinister pathology e.g., from the brain or skull.
Neck pain is a common symptom of CGH. It is often worse with certain neck movements, such as looking up or down. Other symptoms of CGH may include dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light or noise. Occasionally people suffering from CGH do not have neck pain!
The diagnosis of CGH is made based on the patient’s history and physical examination and the patterns of referral. Pain and symptoms can be reproduced in the clinic via manual assessment which also confirms the source of pain.
Treatment often consists on getting the neck joints causing the pain referral moving better. The prognosis for CGH is really good. With treatment, most people will experience a significant improvement in their symptoms.
Here are some of the referral patterns of cervicogenic headache:
- Occipital region (back of the head)
- Temporal region (temples)
- Periorbital region (around the eyes)
- Frontal region (forehead)
- Supraorbital region (above the eyes)
- Nasal region
- Occiput-frontal region
- Occipital-temporal region
If you are experiencing headaches that are common to these referral locations it is important to see a Physiotherapist to get a diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to improve your symptoms and prevent further complications.