Headaches from the Neck!

Headaches can have many causes but one such cause is a headache caused by the neck, known as a cervicogenic headache.  The pain from these types of  headache originate in the neck (cervical spine) and then can spread to the base of the skull, side of the head and even around the eyes.

Starting with occasional episodes which can progress to continued pain. The headache may be triggered by neck movement, specific neck positions or (more typically) triggered by stress.  Osteopathy has been shown to be an effective treatment for cervicogenic headache.

Page (2011) summarises the following with regards to current evidence based management of CGH’s:

  • Frequently do not respond to medications.
  • Multimodal management (modalties, manual therapy and therapeutic exercise) is recommended to address individual impairments.
  • Few studies have investigated the effect of modalities (e.g. TENS, Laser).
  • Manual Therapy
    • Several studies have shown that spinal manipulative therapy is effective for CGH.
    • Randomised controlled trials show manual therapy provides better outcomes to CGH patients than no treatment.
    • Patients with neck pain with or without headache have more short-term relief when manual therapy is combined with exercise, when compared to exercise alone.

Causes & Risk Factors

The most common cause of a cervicogenic headache is excessive amounts of stress to the joints and muscles within the neck. The risk factors that can contribute to this type of headache include fatigue, poor sleeping position, wear and tear, cervical disc problems, current or prior neck trauma, poor posture and stress.

If you are suffering with neck pain or headaches, give me a call to find out how we can help.


Page, P. (2011). Cervicogenic Headaches: An evidence-led approach to clinical management. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 6(3), 254–266.