Cervicogenic Headache Exercises You Can Do At Home

Today I will discuss Cervicogenic headache exercises that are mainly used in many physical therapy clinics. Why it is so common? And how it performs at home.

Many patients visit me to consult about headaches along with neck pain, and they mistakenly think that this headache is because of a migraine, anxiety, or maybe high blood pressure. They take common medications, such as tramadol for headache, to counter the pain, but this problem does not subside.

Patients with the same problem use topical treatments and different headache patches, but these do not provide complete relief.

Patients with this type of pain commonly complain about neck pain in the morning. It is very important for us to properly diagnose the type and characteristics of pain in order to receive proper treatment. So to understand in depth read along.

What is a cervicogeinc headache?

The diagnosis of cervicogenic headache can sometimes be confusing. because it is characterized by discogenic and radiating pains that radiate from the neck, shoulder, and upper limbs. 

According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, cervicogenic headache is defined as “a secondary headache disorder produced by a disturbance of the cervical spine and its component bony, disc, and/or soft tissue elements, generally but not always accompanied by neck pain.

Causes of cervicogenic head and neck pain

Muscular & bone dysfunction

The common symptoms of cervicogenic pain, which many doctors tell us , are because of cervical spine dysfunction, which involves muscle and overlying soft tissue, which in turn can irritate the nerve.

Many patients with any history of injury or trauma can experience this type of pain. Neck pain after car accidents is very common. This is because of spasms and tightness in the muscle. Muscle spasms and strain affect the symmetry of the cervical spine

Commonly, it is said that repetitive strain, bad posture, and muscle spasms can mimic cervicogenic pain.

Pregnancy neck pain

As previously stated, women experience more pain than men. The reason behind this data is evidence-based. Women feel neck pain during pregnancy because more weight is on their spine.

Women with carpal tunnel syndrome experience pain in the arm and shoulder radiating upward to the neck and head.

Neck pain after covid

In 2019, covid-pandemic patients reported neck pain after covid. People are wondering if COVID can cause neck pain and headaches. Yes, it is true. Because inflammation in the body, it stresses the muscles and soft tissue, which leads to headaches and neck pain.  

Medical condition cause neck pain

  • Osteoporosis, Degenerative changes in spinal vertebrae. to understand osteoporosis its cause read my latest article here.
  • Any medical condition which can involve bones, joints, and muscles, such as arthritis or other inflammatory diseases. 
  • Any history of trauma, or neck injury

Symptoms Radiating Pain

I’ll now go over the signs of cervicogenic pain so you can comprehend it before beginning any treatments. This is the most common type of neck pain, which radiates upward to the head and down to the shoulder and arms.

People like me wonder what does radiating pain means? In simple words, when the nerve in the neck, called the “cervical spine,” is pinched, it causes nerve pain that radiates to the head, shoulder, and arms. The symptoms of cervicogenic pain are as follows;

  1. The patient complains of pain on one side of the neck which radiates to the eye and temple region.
  2. The patient feels neurogenic symptoms like numbness and tingling in the upper limbs
  3. Headache not relieved by headache medications.
  4. The pain becomes worse with neck movement.
  5. The patient feels a spasm in the muscle with decreased neck range of motion.

Diagnosis of headache neck pain

Cervicogeic headache disorders require proper evaluation and examination. The diagnostic technique includes history and duration of pain, and physical examination, which involves neck range of motion, muscle stiffness, numbness, and tingling in the upper limb.

Then comes the digital examination, for which doctors recommend an X-ray of the spine and an MRI to evaluate any soft tissues. If the diagnosis is not clear, the doctor may recommend a CT scan. Doctors recommend the nerve conduction study (NCS) to examine the nerve.

These digital examinations are helpful to understand pinched nerve in neck headache.

Triggering factors of cervicogenic pain

There are some factors that can even worsen the condition such as 

  • Sudden or jerky  movements of the head or neck
  • Sit, sleep, or stand in bad posture
  • Muscle strain due to repetitive movement of the neck.

Alleviating factors of neck pain

The relieving factor for head and neck pain are as follow;

  • The pain subsides with rest .
  • Symptoms receive by applying ice or a heating pad
  • A gentle massage or stretching relief the pain
  • Massage or gentle stretching of the neck and shoulder muscles
  • Pain relief by adopting a good posture
  • Pain symptoms relieve with physical therapy treatment techniques.

Physiotheraptherapy Treatment of Cervicogenic Headache 

After a proper diagnosis, if the pain is not related to any medical condition, a physiotherapist can properly give you the best treatment for this type of pain.

Different physical therapy techniques, such as chiropractic, biofeedback, exercise technique, and electrotherapy, are beneficial for cervicogenic headache treatment. 

Many patients report a decrease in symptoms of headache after chiropractor.

Cervicogenic Headache Exercises At Home

As a consultant physiotherapist and certified chiropractor, I  will guide you through some exercises you can do at home. I make the exercise so easy that you can try it at home. So read along….

Neck ROM

Gently but not jerky movement of your head in different directions. Move forward, backward, upward, and downward. Avoid any fast bouncing or jerky movement. 

Chin tucks

Sit or stand with your shoulders relaxed. You can try this technique in lying posting, Put the towel under your cervical spin and Tuck your chin back and forth. Tuck your chin inside toward your chest, by keeping the neck straight. Hold for 5 seconds, and then resting position. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times

Upper trapezius stretch

Sit or stand by keeping your shoulders relaxed. Reach behind your head with one hand and gently pull your head to the side, stretching the muscles along the side of your neck. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. 

Place your hand on your head. Tilt your head towards your shoulder and apply pressure.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then release the pressure. Move your neck to the neutral position. Repeat this exercise 10 -15 times. 

Levator scapulae stretch

Sit on a chair with your feet apart. Forward Bend your neck to 45 degrees downward toward your right armpit while keeping your trunk straight.

Now place your left arm back on your trunk and hold the chair from your back.

Hold the position for 5 seconds and then relax. Repeat this exercise 5-15 times.

Scapular retraction exercise

You can do this exercise by using the band. Wrap the band with any solid object.

Hold the band while your arm is 90 to the band. Keep your elbow close and pull the band.

When you pull your arm backward your shoulder blade will come closer. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Shoulder blade squeeze

You can try the Scapular retraction exercise without a band. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then release. Repeat this exercise 10 -15 times.

Isometric neck exercises

Move the neck in different positions and resist the movement with your hand. Hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds, then relax. Side flex your neck toward armpit , hold for 5 to 10 sec then release.

Precautions and safety for Cervicogenic Headache Exercise

  1. Try cluster headache relief massage.
  2. If you have a history of neck injury or surgery then don’t try any exercise at home without proper consultation. 
  3. Start with gentle stretches and gradually increase the intensity with the passage of time.
  4. If any movement increases the pain then stop doing this and consult a physiotherapist.
  5. To avoid strain or injury use proper technique during exercises
  6. Never overdo it.  Don’t do it too hard.
  7. While you exercising at home Use appropriate equipment, such as a supportive pillow or exercise ball, or bands.
  8. If you experience any symptoms of dizziness or nausea, stop exercising immediately.
  9. Always warm up yourself before exercising and cool down after completing your exercise.
  10. Stop the exercises If you experience persistent pain or discomfort and consult with a doctor 
  11.  Drink plenty of water. Always motivate yourself. 

Conclusion

Overall the cervicogenic headache can be best treated by physical therapy procedures. You can try these exercises at home. This Cervicogenic headache exercise should do in reputation. Do each exercise for 2 weeks. Repeat every exercise 10-15 times. take a break of 1 minute between each exercise. Drink Plenty of water and always add a morning walk to your daily routine.For more physiotherapy exercises click HereIf you want to discuss the exercise in detail. Do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to answer your query. You can directly contact me. Just Click Here.

Author

  • Dr Khadija

    DPT | MS Pain Management | Intra-articular Injec Specialist | Acupuncturist | Cupping Therapist | Oncology Pain Specialist | Certified Chiropractor 🇬🇧 | Medical Writer | Author