The Facts Behind Cervicogenic Headache

Symptoms and diagnosis for Cervicogenic Headache

By Neurosurgery Singapore

What is a Cervicogenic Headache?

Cervicogenic headache (CGH) occurs when pain is referred from a specific source in the neck up to the head. This pain is commonly a steady ache or dull feeling, but sometimes the pain intensity can worsen. CGH symptoms are usually side-locked, which means they occur on one side of the neck, head, and/or face.

CGH is a secondary headache that occurs because of a physical or neurologic condition that started first. Cervicogenic headache may be caused by trauma, such as fracture, dislocation, or whiplash injury, or an underlying medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or infection. While the pain source is located in the cervical spine, CGH can be difficult to diagnose because pain is not always felt in the neck. Cervicogenic headache symptoms can also mimic primary headaches, such as migraine and tension-type headache.

What are some symptoms Cervicogenic Headache?

Typically, people who have cervicogenic headaches experience a headache accompanied by neck pain and stiffness. Certain neck movements can provoke cervicogenic headaches.

In most cases, cervicogenic headaches develop on one side of the head, starting from the back of the head and neck and radiating toward the front.

Some other symptoms of a cervicogenic headache include:

  • a reduced range of motion in the neck
  • pain on one side of the face or head
  • having neck pain and stiffness of the neck
  • pain around the eyes
  • experiencing pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm on one side
  • head pain that is triggered by certain neck movements or positions
  • sensitivity to light and noise
  • nausea
  • blurred vision

“If left untreated, a cervicogenic headache can worsen and become debilitating. People can experience chronic, or recurrent, headaches that do not respond to medication.”

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What types of diagnosis?

There are many types of headaches, it can be hard to be sure you have Cervicogenic Headaches. Our doctor will examine you and ask questions about your health. He’ll want to know what you’re doing when you get the pain and where it hurts.

Neurological examination

A neurological examination may help our doctor detect physical signs of having such issue. Our Neurologist will use a series of procedures to assess your brain function, including testing your senses, reflexes and nerves.

Imaging tests

If you have unusual or complicated head pain or an abnormal neurological examination, our neurologist might recommend other tests to rule out other serious causes of head pain, such as a tumor or aneurysm. Common brain imaging tests include:

    • X-ray. This usage for an imaging result of the neck and spine.
    • CT scan. This uses a series of X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of your brain.
    • MRI. This uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of your brain and blood vessels.

Possible treatment methods?

If you have cervicogenic headaches, there are several ways to lessen the pain, or get rid of it completely:
  • Medicine: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, and other pain relievers may ease the pain.
  • Nerve block: This may temporarily relieve pain and help you better work with physical therapy.
  • Physical therapy: Stretches and exercises can help. Work with our doctor or our physical therapist to find out what kind of exercise is best and safest for you.
  • Spinal manipulation: This is a mix of physical therapy, massage, and joint movement. This can be done by our physical therapist who will also teaches relaxation techniques.
  • Surgery: If your pain from cervicogenic headaches is severe, our doctor may suggest an operation to keep your nerves from being squeezed, but this is rare.

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