Headaches: a pain in the neck?

It can feel, at times, as though headaches come out of nowhere. The truth is that headaches can be caused by a long list of factors. Some of these factors are easily ironed out; by drinking water or getting some fresh air for example. But there’s a culprit you may not have considered: your neck.

Cervicogenic Headaches

A headache with neck pain at the source is known as a Cervicogenic Headache; simply put, this type of headache is not rooted in the head, but is the result of referred pain from the neck (known medically as the Cervical Spine). These headaches are sometimes misdiagnosed as ‘Cluster’ or ‘Tension Headaches’ and can even mimic migraines. Cervicogenic headaches may present with symptoms such as:

Pain on one side of the face

Pain when coughing or sneezing

Neck stiffness

Pain around the eyes

Cervicogenic Headaches may also cause migraine-like symptoms like light sensitivity, blurry vision and an upset stomach.

Another telltale sign that you’re suffering with cervicogenic headaches is that headache medications and/or painkillers have little to no effect.

Preventing cervicogenic headaches

A contributing factor to these headaches may be sitting for long periods looking at a computer. You may also be unknowingly pushing your chin forward whilst you’re lost in concentration; this is called Cervical Protraction. Sitting or standing in this protracted position for long periods can put pressure on the base of the skull so it’s important to adjust the position of your neck accordingly.

Falling asleep in awkward positions, such as laying with your neck extended too far to either side of your body, can also be a headache trigger. Be wary of sitting up in bed either reading or looking at your phone.

If headaches continue, Chiropractic Treatment may help to address any underlying causes. Your Chiropractor may also recommend a course of action to help prevent further instances of these headaches. Your neck is the most flexible part of the spine but it works hard supporting the most important part of you: your head. It pays to consider the health of your neck now and then; the alternative can be a real headache.

Photo: 301/366: Headache by GonzaloMMD licensed under Creative commons 2

Dr. Steven Lockstone


Dr Steven is a Sydney Chiropractor in Bondi Junction with 21 years clinical experience.

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