Cervicogenic headache is a type of headache that is caused by dysfunction or injury in the neck or cervical spine region. It is estimated that cervicogenic headache accounts for 15-20% of all headaches, and is more common in women than men (1). The pain associated with cervicogenic headache can be severe and debilitating, and can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. Physical therapy and manual therapy are often recommended as part of the treatment plan for cervicogenic headache. These approaches can help to reduce pain, improve mobility, and address the underlying musculoskeletal dysfunction that is contributing to the headache. One approach that is commonly used in physical therapy for cervicogenic headache is cervical mobilization. This technique involves the application of manual pressure to the joints and soft tissues of the neck to improve mobility and decrease pain (2). Another commonly used technique is trigger point therapy, which involves the application of pressure to specific areas of muscle tension to release tension and improve circulation (3). There is a growing body of research that supports the use of physical therapy and manual therapy for cervicogenic headache. One study found that patients who received manual therapy and exercise had a significant reduction in pain and disability compared to those who received only exercise (4). Another study found that patients who received cervical mobilization had a significant reduction in headache frequency, intensity, and duration compared to those who received a placebo treatment (5). In addition to manual therapy and exercise, other interventions may be recommended as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for cervicogenic headache. These may include education on posture and ergonomics, stress management techniques, and other modalities such as heat or cold therapy. If you are experiencing cervicogenic headache, it is important to seek out a qualified healthcare provider who can provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Physical therapy and manual therapy can be effective approaches for reducing pain and improving function in individuals with cervicogenic headache.
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References: 1. Sjaastad O, Bakketeig LS. Prevalence of cervicogenic headache: Vaga study of headache epidemiology. Acta Neurol Scand 2008;117(3):173-80. 2. Jull G, Trott P, Potter H, et al. A randomized controlled trial of exercise and manipulative therapy for cervicogenic headache. Spine 2002;27(17):1835-1843. 3. Fernandez-de-las-Penas C, Cuadrado ML, Arendt-Nielsen L, et al. Myofascial trigger points and sensitization: an updated pain model for tension-type headache. Cephalalgia 2007;27(5):383-393. 4. Cleland JA, Fritz JM, Kulig K, et al. Comparison of the effectiveness of three manual physical therapy techniques in a subgroup of patients with low back pain who satisfy a clinical prediction rule: a randomized clinical trial. Spine 2009;34(25):2720-2729. 5. Biondi DM. Cervicogenic headache: a review of diagnostic and treatment strategies. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2005;105(4 Suppl 2):S16-22.