Headache is defined as pain in the head or upper neck. It is one of the most common locations of pain in the body and has many causes. Headaches arising from the cervical spine (neck) are called cervicogenic headaches. This disorder is a common form of chronic and recurrent headache. This musculoskeletal neck disorder can be caused by abnormalities of the joints, muscles, fascia, and neural structures of the cervical region.

Typically, this form of headache:

  • Is recurrent, long-lasting and moderate to severe ( pain can be constant with episodes of exacerbation)
  • Arises from the neck
  • Has a unilateral dominance – one side only – (but it can be bilateral, affecting both sides)
  • Is in the low occipital (base of the head) and temporal (side of the head) regions. With possible radiation in the face, periorbital, frontal and parietal region and ipsilateral shoulder and arm
  • It is usually accompanied by reduced range of motion of the cervical spine (particularly upper cervical)
  • It can be precipitated with certain neck movements (extension and rotation)
  • The patient can often complain of impaired concentration, an inability to function normally and depressed mood
  • Stressful situations may be an important contributory factor to the development of soft tissue abnormalities causing headaches or may aggravate abnormalities already present

Physiotherapy is recommended as the first line of management. In 2007 the International Headache Society agreed upon an updated classification system for headaches. The classification system allows us to understand a specific diagnosis and cause of your headache, and so develop a more effective treatment regimen. Physiotherapy aims to discover the cause of the headache, and through using evidence-based techniques, to treat and cure the pain.