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Headaches... From My Neck?

By: Crystal Natalino, DPT

Headaches have many different causes, and each type of headache may warrant a different type of treatment.  Headaches can be brought on and exacerbated by allergies, eye issues, high blood pressure, head injury, and the list goes on.  

Did you know that headaches can also be referred pain, coming from your neck?  This type of headache is called “cervicogenic” headache.  This pain usually follows a “Ram Horn” pattern, as pictured below:

Rams horn Headaches caused by neck pain
Cervicogenic Headache Pattern

Signs your headache might be referred from your neck

  • The pain follows the pattern pictured above

  • Symptoms are brought on by prolonged sitting or driving

  • You always have a headache lying in bed or upon waking in the morning

  • The pain decreases when you fix your posture or change positions

  • Pain is on one side or worse on one side of the head

  • Stretching your neck helps

What can I do if I think my headache is cervicogenic in nature?

Try the following stretches.  If you suspect your headache is coming from your neck, you should be evaluated by a physical therapist.  They will be able to identify any red flags if symptoms require evaluation from a medical doctor, or develop a treatment plan.  PT treatment may consist of stretches you can perform independently at home, postural strengthening, education and body mechanics training, and manual therapy techniques applied by your PT.


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