Cervicogenic Headache

Cervicogenic Headache Treatment | Flow Osteopathy Mitcham
Melbourne osteopath Tim discusses what cervicogenic headache is and how treatment can help


Cervicogenic headache is a type of headache stemming from the upper neck. The nerves from the upper three segments of the spine reach up and into the brainstem in the same place as the nerves from the head and face. In certain individuals, prolonged stress on the upper neck can make this area of the brainstem more sensitive and in turn cause the nerves of the head and face to be more sensitive, creating a headache (1).

Cervicogenic headache is an under appreciated and under diagnosed form of headache. This is likely because its presentation can be identical to a variety of headache and migraine types. Often it will be diagnosed once treatments for migraine, vestibular dysfunction or tension type etc headache have failed.

The official diagnostic criteria even states that “migrainous features such as nausea, vomiting and photo/phonophobia may be present with cervicogenic headache.” (2) More than this, the presence of neck pain can also be a symptom of migraine or tension headache – adding to the challenge of diagnosis.

As a result, the importance of a correct and thorough examination of the neck is of the utmost importance in determining if treatment to the neck is likely to have an impact.

Treatment for cervicogenic headache can take a variety of forms. At Flow Osteopathy we use a treatment style known as the Watson Headache Approach. This is a hands on treatment approach designed specifically for treatment of headache and migraine types. It is scientifically proven to reduce sensitivity in the brainstem, creating significant and sustainable results (3).

Beyond hands-on treatment there are a range of other factors that are important to consider when managing cervicogenic headache including:

  • Office/home ergonomics
  • Pillow type
  • Posture/strength
  • Stress
  • Sleep disturbances

If you would like to learn more about our approach to cervicogenic headache, you can book a free 15 minute phone consultation. We can discuss your story, answer any questions you might have and, if you wish, make an appointment for an initial assessment of your neck.

  1. Castien R et al. A Neuroscience Perspective of Physical Treatment of Headache and Neck Pain. Frontiers in Neurology; 10(3): 1-7
  2. Vincent M, Wang S (2018). Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS) The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition. Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache. 28(1), 1-211.
  3. Watson, DH et al. Cervical Referral of Head Pain in Migraineurs: Effect on the Nociceptive Blink Reflex. Headache. 2014 June; 54 (6): 1035-1045.
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