Neck Pain & Headaches

Carol Kennedy, BScPT, MClSc(manip), FCAMPT, Physiotherapist, discusses neck pain & headaches.

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Carol Kennedy, BScPT, MClSc(manip), FCAMPT, Physiotherapist, discusses neck pain & headaches.
Video transcript

Featuring Carol Kennedy, BScPT, MClSc(manip), FCAMPT

Duration: 2 minutes, 43 seconds

So cervicogenic headache is a headache that arises from the structures in the cervical spine or the neck, and that could be the joints, it could be the ligaments, it could be the muscles, and usually it’s the upper part of the neck.

And about 20 percent of all headaches are cervicogenic. So there’s a huge classification of different types of neck pains, and only one of which is cervicogenic. And so usually what you look for if someone’s experiencing a headache that is coming from the neck, there’s usually some sort of associated involvement, like certain movements or postures, of the neck reproduce that headache.

The neck pain and headache are usually on the same side. Classically, cervicogenic headache is what we call side-locked, so it’s on the same side as the side of the, of the neck pain, and there may also be associated shoulder and arm pain. Although if someone has neck pain on both sides, their headache might be on both sides as well.

They can be episodic or fluctuating, and they can be moderate to severe. And they’re usually more common in females, but they can occur in males as well. And it’s very common to have some history of trauma.

Several good studies have shown that a combination of manual therapy and exercise is what’s most effective in dealing with this type of headache, and that would involve manual therapy, involves hands-on mobilization, manipulation of those stiff joints in the upper part of the neck, or soft tissue techniques to loosen up some of that tight, hypertonic, hypertonic muscle structures in, in, again, up in the upper part of the neck.

Exercise is another major component, and that would be stretching exercises to, to loosen those muscles, as well as some of the muscle balance patterning. Again, activating the core muscles and downtraining the superficial muscles that get too tight.

So if you have the type of headache that seems to be associated directly with the neck, as your neck pain gets worse your headaches get worse, that’s the type of headache that a physiotherapist would be able to deal with through the manual therapy and the exercise.

If you have a horrible headache like you’ve never had before that’s just come on out of the blue, that should be screened first by a, a physician, medical practitioner.

But if it is a cervicogenic headache, then the proper assessment of what’s going on with your neck and then the treatment applied for that specific neck would be the most effective in dealing with your headaches.

Presenter: Ms. Carol Kennedy, Physiotherapist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Physiotherapist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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