5 cervicogenic headache treatments physical therapists offer

Cervicogenic headaches are a type of headache that start in the neck. These rare headaches can be a challenge for people who seek relief from pain. They are characterized by discomfort that usually radiates from the neck to the head and can be due to musculoskeletal issues. Because of this, cervicogenic headaches are great candidates for physical therapy. Physical therapists can use several techniques to help address underlying causes, improve musculoskeletal function and improve your overall neck health. 


Understanding cervicogenic headaches


Before jumping into treatments, it’s important to understand cervicogenic headaches. They aren’t like migraines or tension headaches. These headaches come from abnormalities or dysfunctions in the neck and surrounding area, with the pain traveling from the neck to the head, as mentioned above. They can also be accompanied by stiffness or a decreased range of motion. Common triggers can include poor posture, neck trauma, sitting for long periods and musculoskeletal imbalances. 


Treatment approaches for cervicogenic headaches


Cervicogenic headaches can be treated by focusing on addressing the underlying neck issues. Addressing these issues can help relieve the associated symptoms. Common treatments can include:


  • Medication — Over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen may help reduce pain and inflammation that can come with these headaches. Your health care provider may also prescribe a muscle relaxer to help relax tense neck muscles. 
  • Heat and cold therapy — Applying a warm compress or heating pad at home can help relax muscles and improve circulation. Applying a cold pack can help reduce inflammation and numb the area.
  • Ergonomics — Using an optimal desk setup and chair adjustment can promote good posture. Good posture can help minimize the strain on your neck, which can help reduce your pain.
  • Physical therapyPhysical therapy is a beneficial treatment to help alleviate pain. It can also help to improve joint function, promote good posture and reduce neck strain.
  • Cervical traction — Cervical traction gently stretches your neck. This stretching can help relieve compression on your nerves and reduce pain.
  • Nerve blocks — Your health care provider may recommend you receive a nerve block injection. These inject anesthetic agents or steroids into specific nerves or muscle trigger points. Injections may temporarily relieve your headaches. 


Physical therapy treatments for cervicogenic headaches


Physical therapists use a diverse range of treatments to help target underlying causes and boost your musculoskeletal function. Physical therapy can also help alleviate lingering symptoms that are associated with cervicogenic headaches. Effective treatment techniques can include:


  • Manual therapyManual therapy is an effective treatment for cervicogenic headaches. Your physical therapist may use joint mobilization and soft tissue mobilization. These techniques use gentle, targeted movements that help improve the mobility of your neck joint and can alleviate stiffness. Myofascial release can help improve soft tissue mobility in your neck to help reduce muscle tension. These hands-on techniques can be instrumental in helping restore your range of motion if your neck is tense and stiff. You may also see a reduction in your headache symptoms.
  • Therapeutic exercises Specially tailored exercises can play a pivotal role in helping to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your neck. These exercises are designed to help improve your muscle endurance, flexibility and overall function. They can potentially help prevent the recurrence of cervicogenic headaches. 
  • Trigger point therapy — Manual pressure techniques can be used to help address specific trigger points, areas of tension and stress, that can lead to cervicogenic headaches. Releasing tension can help promote muscle relaxation and can be integral to headache management.
  • Graston Technique® — The Graston Technique is done by a certified physical therapist who uses specialized stainless steel instruments. These instruments can help manipulate soft tissue, aiding in the breakdown of scar tissue. Breakdown of scar tissue can help promote tissue function and healing. 
  • Electrical stimulation — With electrical stimulation, electrodes are applied strategically. These electrodes send low-level currents to help stimulate muscles and nerves. This can help manage pain, reduce muscle spasms and boost blood circulation in the neck region.


Combining physical therapy and other treatment options can be an effective strategy to give you relief from cervicogenic headaches. Your physical therapist can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan for optimal and lasting relief.


Find compassionate care for your cervicogenic headaches at Panther Physical Therapy


At Panther Physical Therapy, we are committed to giving you comprehensive care for your cervicogenic headaches. Our skilled physical therapists create personalized treatment plans to address each patient’s unique needs. We believe in empowering our patients with the self-management knowledge and tools they need. By empowering our patients, they can be on a path to sustained relief and improved overall well-being. Trust Panther Physical Therapy as your partner in overcoming cervicogenic headaches. Your road to lasting headache relief begins with us, where our expertise and dedication will help you reach your optimal health and vitality. 


Call us or request an appointment today for help relieving your cervicogenic headaches.