Cervicogenic Headache

A common condition we treat at Coolangatta-Tweed Heads Osteopathy is known as a cervicogenic headache.

This is described as a headache primarily caused by dysfunction in the cervical region of the neck. Its representative symptoms are pain that is often felt unilaterally, which starts in the posterior occipital region and makes its way forward to the frontal region. 

It is regularly accompanied by ipsilateral arm discomfort and reduced ROM in the neck.

Pain can be brought on by  certain neck movements or by inhibiting trigger points in the upper part of the neck.(1, 2)

Out of all the chronic headache conditions, the incidence of cervicogenic headaches is seen to be as high as 14-18% in the general populous.(3)

Clinical Signs and Symptoms

  • Steady, non-throbbing pain at the base of the occiput extending into the neck and shoulder unilaterally.
  • Pain behind the forehead.
  • Onset after sudden neck movements (eg. extension)
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Pain down one or both arms.

It has been said that one possible effective way to manage CGH is the manual therapy approach of active release of trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid muscle.

Patients in the study reported a reduction in the intensity of their associated neck pain and headache intensity after treatment.(4)

Another study has shown that there is evidence that supports spinal manipulation (HVLA) for the management of cervicogenic headaches. It does state, however, that more research on the topic is needed.(5)


  1. Haldeman S, Dagenais S. Cervicogenic headaches: a critical review. The Spine Journal. 2001;1(1):31-46.
  2. Available from: https://pain-medicine.med.nyu.edu/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/cervicogenic-headache.
  3. Zito G, Jull G, Story I. Clinical tests of musculoskeletal dysfunction in the diagnosis of cervicogenic headache. Manual Therapy. 2006;11(2):118-29.
  4. Bodes-Pardo G, Pecos-Martín D, Gallego-Izquierdo T, Salom-Moreno J, Fernández-de-las-Peñas C, Ortega-Santiago R. Manual Treatment for Cervicogenic Headache and Active Trigger Point in the Sternocleidomastoid Muscle: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2013;36(7):403-11.
  5. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, Marcoux H, Potter B, Ruegg R, et al. Evidence-Based Guidelines for the Chiropractic Treatment of Adults With Headache. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2011;34(5):274-89

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