What Are Cervicogenic Headaches?

Headaches treatment in san francisco, CAWe have been providing treatment for headaches in San Francisco for over 20 years now. Headaches
are a very common problem that can have multiple causes ranging from mental and physical stress to
trauma.  To make matters worse, there are
MANY different types of headaches. One such type is the “cervicogenic headache”
(others include migraines, cluster headaches, etc.).

            The main distinction between the
symptoms associated with cervicogenic headaches and those associated with
migraine headaches are a lack of nausea, vomiting, aura (pre-headache warning
that a headache is about to strike), light and noise sensitivity, increased
tearing with red eyes, one sided head, neck, shoulder and/or arm pain, and
dizziness. The items listed above are primarily found in migraine headache

            The following is a list of clinical
characteristics common in those struggling with cervicogenic headaches:

  1. Unilateral
    (one-sided) head or face pain (rarely is it on both sides).
  2. Pain is localized
    or stays in one spot, usually the back of the head, frontal, temporal (side)
    or orbital (eye) regions.
  3. Moderate to severe
    pain intensity.
  4. Intermittent
    attacks of pain that last hours to days.
  5. Pain is usually
    deep, non-throbbing, unless migraines occur at the same time.
  6. Head pain is
    triggered by neck movement, sustained awkward head postures, applying deep
    pressure to the base of the skull or upper neck region, and/or taking a
    deep breath, cough or sneeze can trigger head pain.
  7. Limited neck motion
    with stiffness.

            Infrequently, the cervicogenic
headache sufferer can present with migraines at the same time and have both
presentations making it more challenging to diagnose. 

            The cause of cervicogenic headaches
can be obvious such as trauma (sports injury, whiplash, slip and fall), or not
so obvious, like posture. A forward head posture can increase the relative
weight applied to the back of the neck and upper back as much as 2x-4x normal.

Forward Head Posture (FHP) is a frequent finding with those that spend a lot of time at a desk in front of a computer like most of our San Francisco Chiropractor patients.

Last month, we discussed the intimate relationship between the upper 2 cervical
vertebra (C1 & C2) and an anatomical connection to the covering of the
spinal cord (the dura) as giving rise to cervicogenic headaches. In summary,
the upper 3 nerves innervate the head and any pressure on those upper 3 nerves
can result in a cervicogenic headache. As chiropractors, we are trained to
examine, identify, and treat these types of potentially debilitating headaches. It is not uncommon for a chiropractor to achieve favorable results in a very short period of time with cervicogenic headaches…even in patients that have been suffering for years.

            We realize that you have a choice in
where you choose your healthcare services.
If you, a friend or family member requires care for headaches, we
sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services
and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

To schedule an appointment with a headaches doctor in San Francisco please call 415-392-2225. Mention this article for a complimentary consultation and office tour.


Eben Davis

I am a Chiropractor in the San Francisco Financial District specializing in chronic neck, arm and hand pain. I also treat herniated discs using spinal decompression, whiplash, sports injuries, headaches, and Fibromyalgia. My clinic is certified in the use of Deep Tissue Laser Therapy with the LiteCure LCT-1000 for conditions such as shoulder pain, TMJ and Plantar Fasciitis. I have been in practice for over 20 years.

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