There are a number of causes for headaches, of which I will be focusing on the one most commonly seen in the clinic, cervicogenic headaches. Cervicogenic headache literally means that the headache itself is as a result of a problem in the neck.
So what is causing the headache?
Usually to be classified as a cervicogenic headache the spinal dysfunction has to be within the upper three vertebrae in the neck whereby these have been shown to have the highest correlation of dysfunction, with onward pain referral into the head.
What does it feel like?
Really this varies from person to person, generally it begins as a tightness/pressure at the top of the neck which then extends into the back of the head (the occiput) and then sometimes extends to the top of the head and can go into the eyebrow/back of the eye region. Interestingly some people don’t even feel the neck pain or discomfort!
What causes the joint dysfunction in the first place?
First of all there are a number of potential causes. I find there is a high correlation with cervicogenic headaches and anterior head syndrome (AHS), this is a postural/structural condition that puts increased strain onto the joints and muscles of the neck and upper back. If a person also has degenerative changes within the spine, which can be seen on an x ray or MRI scan, along with AHS then this usually indicates that the condition has been present for quite a while.
What causes AHS?
Unfortunately it’s the usual suspects:
-previous neck trauma (e.g whiplash)
-inappropriate desk set up
-poor sleeping positions
-prolonged use of computers, tablets
Can anything be done for cervicogenic headaches?
The evidence is good supporting chiropractic care for cervicogenic headaches. At Chiropractic Works I focus on working to correct the structure which in turn helps to improve the function of the spine decreasing joint dysfunction, muscle tightness and ultimately the headache.
1. Haas M., et al. , Dose response for chiropractic care of chronic cervicogenic headache and associated neck pain: a randomized pilot study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2004. 27(9): p. 547–53 [PubMed]
2.Haas M., et al. , Dose response and efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic cervicogenic headache: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Spine J, 2010. 10(2): p. 117–28 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Jull G., et al. , A randomized controlled trial of exercise and manipulative therapy for cervicogenic headache. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 2002. 27(17): p. 1835–43; discussion 1843. [PubMed]