Cervicogenic Headache : Causes & Treatment

Cervicogenic headache

There are many kinds of headache, which people experience ranging from migraine, tension or sinus headache. Cervicogenic headache is one type of headache which is often misdiagnosed and never gets treated the way it should be.

Cervicogenic headache, as the name suggests, originates from neck (cervical spine) especially the sub occipital area. The sub occipital area refers to the upper back of neck just below the occipital region of the head. Disorders affecting the neck muscles, joints or nerve can lead to this kind of headache.

Nerves which supply the upper neck also supply the areas in head and face. That’s why it is a secondary headache, referred/caused by a neck lesion or disorder.

Sign and symptoms

Usually the pain starts in the neck as a dull ache, which gradually leads to the head. Aggravating Factors may include prolonged sitting or lifting heavy things with a poor posture. Upper neck area might be tender to touch in people suffering from this condition. Apart from pain patient can experience stiffness in the neck, dizziness, nausea and light headedness.


Activities or posture which causes stress on the neck, especially upper neck can result in cervicogenic headaches.

  • Poor posture (slouched posture, forward head posture)
  • Working on computer for prolonged hours
  • Heavy lifting activities with poor posture
  • Trauma (e.g. whiplash)
  • Increased upper body stiffness/ limited movement
  • Poor breathing technique
  • Stress
  • Improper work desk setup


Get a proper diagnosis done by a physiotherapist or an orthopedic

In most of the cases conservative treatment does the trick.

  • Joint mobilization
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Posture correction
  • Correcting muscle imbalance around neck and upper body area
  • Stretching exercises for neck and pectorals
  • Strengthening exercises for neck and upper back muscles
  • Deep neck flexors retraining
  • Improving thoracic/rib cage mobility
  • Activity modification
  • Correcting workplace setup and sleeping position
  • Improving breathing technique
  • Tapping

Rehab Mantra
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2 replies
  1. Kavita says:

    Nice article..Explained in simple language..Sleeping posture also leads to such headaches..and relaxation technique can be added for treatment

    • Rehab Mantra says:

      Hi Kavita , that’s really a good point to add in the rehab of cervicogenic headache. Thank you for the input.


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