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Cervicogenic Headache – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

705116_headacheCervicogenic Headache as the name indicates (cervical = pertaining to the neck), is the headache generating from the neck region i.e., neck is the source of this painful condition. In medical terms it has been defined as a unilateral or one-sided headache whose characteristic feature is a non-throbbing pain that begins in the neck and travels to the forehead and/or temple area.

Causes:

Several factors can attribute to this headache. The point where the sensory nerve fibers of neck meet with the sensory nerve fibers of trigeminal nerve is thought to be the originating point of Cervicogenic Headache. Trigeminal nerve is responsible for transmitting the signals related to headache.

  • While lifting a heavy object, there is a possibility of neck strain, which if not healed immediately can cause spasms leading to headache.
  • Trauma or injury to head.
  • Twisting the neck while sleeping.

Symptoms:

  • Presence of pain only on one side of the head.
  • Headache characterized by stiffness and pain in the neck region.
  • A piercing pain that starts at the neck and moves forward to the forehead and temples.
  • Headache characterized by stiffness and pain in the arm and shoulder of one side.
  • Sensitivity to sound and light, vomiting and nausea with severe headache.

Diagnosis of Cervicogenic Headache:

International headache society has established a set of criteria to diagnose this headache. Giving local anesthesia to the muscles on the back of the head reduces the pain caused by this headache by blocking the occipital nerve.

Some other injections such as medial branch blocks or facet joint injections also work in a similar way. Because these injections relieve the pain temporarily, they are used to diagnose the condition but not to treat it.

Treatment:

Several treatment strategies are available for this condition. These comprise of:

  • Anti inflammatory over the counter medications that decrease the pain levels can be taken. Opioids can be taken in case of severe headache. These medications should not be taken for more than 10 days at a stretch.
  • Injections could serve the purpose of relieving pain. Steroidal and botox (botulinum toxin) injections may be considered.
  • Several non-invasive, non-drug therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation and physical therapy can relieve the pain.

Cervicogenic Headache can be devastating but with proper diagnosis and treatment the affected person can lead a normal life.

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