Migraines and Cervicogenic Headaches

Do you suffer from Migraines or Cervicogenic Headaches? 

Cervicogenic headache, also known as CGH, occurs when pain transfers from a specific spot in the neck up to the head. The pain can be a steady ache or dull feeling, but it also can intensify to become sharp. CGH typically takes place on one side of the neck, head, and/or face.

Other symptoms of a CGH can include head pain when you cough, sneeze, or take a deep breath, and even a stiff neck.

Migraines and CGH are different, however, they do have overlapping symptoms which are:

  • Feel sick to your stomach and even can cause you to throw up
  • Have pain in your arm or shoulder
  • Sensitive to lights and loud noises
  • Can cause blurry vision

The main difference between a migraine and CGH is that a migraine headache is rooted in the brain, and a CGH is rooted in the cervical spine (neck) or base of the skull region. There is always an AURA prior to a migraine and this is not the case with CGH.

What causes Cervicogenic Headaches? 

The top major causes of CGH are:

  • Joint stiffness in the cervical spine
  • Forward head posture
  • Cervical Osteoarthritis
  • Damaged Disc
  • Whiplash-type movement that can irritate or compress a cervical nerve
  • Sports injury

How to treat Cervicogenic Headaches? 

You can work with a physical therapist to develop specialized treatment programs. Once the therapist identifies the specific source of the pain ( determining if the pain is driven from a joint, soft tissue or nerve)  they will use techniques such as soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilizations, Dry Needling,  stretches and strengthening exercises. Stimulating the soft tissue and mobilizing  the joints can relieve painful  headache symptoms.

Watch this video for a few stretches to help relieve pain and stretch the neck.


If you think you are experiencing CGH please call one of our locations in Crestview, Niceville, or DeFuniak Springs to make an appointment and see one of our Physical Therapists.