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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Headaches Can Also Be a Pain in the Neck

Apr 01, 2022 12:00AM ● By Matt Christiansen
Most people believe that all headaches, as implied by the name, come from your head. However, cervicogenic headaches, also referred to as CGH, are headaches that stem from the cervical (neck) origin of the human body. CGH still poses a challenge for sports rehabilitation specialists, as it has in the past. The etiology and pathophysiology of CGH have not been well understood, according to Phil Page, Ph.D., in International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.

Head pain experienced during a CGH stems from the cervical spine, which is one of the reasons they are so misunderstood. These headaches are very common in weightlifting athletes or people who have sustained whiplash or concussion injuries resulting in neck pain.

CGH does not feel like other headaches. As Dr. Emad Estemalik from The Cleveland Clinic explains, “Cervicogenic headaches usually hurt on one side of the head. They start around the base of your skull and radiate up one side.” Research by Gerard Malanga, M.D., of New Jersey Sports Medicine, concludes that CGH starts in the neck, that the pain can be intermittent or continuous, and that it can spread from one side of the head to the other. Pain can be triggered by awkward neck positions or from pressure over trigger points in the cervical area, and can increase due to neck movement or neck position, such as having your eyes focused on a computer screen. A steady pain at the base and back of the skull, down to the neck and between the shoulder blades, as well as pain behind the brow and forehead, are common symptoms of a CGH.

To reduce the risk of getting a CGH, adjust your desk setup and sleeping position to improve posture. If an injury is the cause of a CGH, chiropractic treatment may be required for a proper solution. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed to decrease the pain, although this does not correct the spinal dysfunction causing the head pain. Because the first three neck vertebrae protect the sensory nerves traveling from the spine to the back of the head, and compression of these nerves cause inflammation and headache pain, chiropractic care could be the best treatment method, especially if one’s goal is to avoid medication.

Dr. Matt Christiansen is the owner of Brookfield Chiropractic. He provides individualized care to restore spinal health in order to help his patients escape chronic pain. For more information, call 262-754-5500, email [email protected] or visit