The International Headache Society identified 14 different types and sub classifications of headaches. The most common types of headaches are tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches, migraines, and headaches caused by trauma or injury. Tension headaches are the result of muscle tension around the base of the skull and neck while cervicogenic headaches are a common disorder in which neck problems refer pain to the head leading to headaches.
Cervicogenic headaches are caused by referred pain from cervical spine (neck) dysfunction, including degeneration, misalignment and nerve impingement. Cervicogenic headaches often develop if there is joint dysfunction and nerve compression in the upper neck. Pain often starts at the base of the skull and can radiate up one, or both, side of the back of the head. Many practitioners mis-diagnose cervicogenic headaches as migraine headaches.
Cervicogenic headaches are often the result of activities that place excessive stress on the upper joints of the neck. This may occur after a traumatic injury (e.g. whiplash or sudden heavy lifting) but more commonly is due to repetitive or sustained activities such as prolonged slouching, lifting or carrying in poor posture, repetitive bending or twisting of the neck, working at a computer and excessive use of mobile electronics.
Approximately 47% of the global population suffers from a headache, and 15-20 percent of those headaches are cervicogenic. Recently, cervicogenic headaches were estimated to affect 2.2% of the population. Epidemiological researchers suggest a higher prevalence of headache in adults with neck pain. Women tend to be more prone to cervicogenic headaches and research suggests women are up to 4 times more likely to experience them than men.
Many headache sufferers report an increased incidence of headaches after periods of high physical or emotional stress. Symptoms often can be exacerbated by poor sleeping habits and dehydration leading to worsened severity or increased frequency.
Many people who suffer from headaches take painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen pain relief. However, the effect of painkillers is temporary and only masks the pain and can lead to side effects if taken over long periods. Rather than relying on drugs to mask your pain, your headaches should be addressed to identify and addressing the root causes.
- Pain medication
- TENS for symptomatic relief
- Spine and Physiotherapy adjustments to address the underlying joint dysfunction and restore proper motion of the neck.
- Physical therapy modalities (Eg. therapeutic ultrasound, electric muscle stim, hot/cold therapy) to address muscular imbalance that may contribute to nerve compression