Cervico-genic headaches are those which result from problems in the neck, such as disc degeneration or prolapse, or facet joint arthritis.
‘Cervico-’ means neck, and ‘-genic’ means origin.
Headaches arising from the cervical spine are relatively common and underrecognised.
What are the symptoms of cervicogenic headaches?
Cervicogenic headaches cause pain typically at the back of the head. This pain may radiate (spread) to the top of the skull and sometimes to the forehead or temple. It may also be associated with pain or discomfort behind the eye.
There is often, but not always, associated neck pain or discomfort, and sometimes the neck pain and headaches become more or less severe at the same time.
Nausea, poor concentration and irritability are frequent accompanying symptoms.
What are the other possible diagnoses?
Cervicogenic headaches may resemble true occipital neuralgia, a condition causing localised pain and neurological abnormalities in the distribution of the occipital nerves at the back of the head. Migraines may also be confused with cervicogenic headaches. An opinion from a neurologist is frequently sought to be more certain of the diagnosis.
How are cervicogenic headaches treated?
It is important to attempt to determine the anatomical basis of these headaches, in other words “exactly which structures in the neck are causing the headaches?”. Once this has
been done, the appropriate treatment may be prescribed.