Headaches are a common problem and can have many different causes. What many people do not realize is that headaches can start from dysfunctions in the neck and are called cervicogenic headaches. These headaches typically start on one side of the neck at the back of the head and migrate into the eye. They can be accompanied with shoulder pain on the same side and typically decreased neck range of motion. Physical therapy can be the solution to getting rid of these headaches.

How Physical Therapy Can Help:

Improving neck motion: Chronic (long lasting) muscle tightness of the neck and stiffness of the upper cervical (neck) spine segments can contribute to headaches. Physical therapists will use joint mobilizations, stretching, trigger point release, and soft tissue mobilization to improve mobility and decrease muscle tension.

Increasing strength: Cervicogenic headaches are often caused by weakness in the neck and upper back muscles. Physical therapists will instruct people in exercises to strengthen these muscles and correct imbalances of strength and flexibility.

Decreasing pain: Physical therapists use various treatments such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, ice and heat to decrease pain and muscle tension.

Improving posture: Individuals with cervicogenic headaches often have poor posture due to habit and muscle imbalance. Physical therapists will use various cues and instructions to improve posture, educate proper workstation set up, and instruct in exercises to promote proper posture.

Your physical therapist will conduct a thorough examination identifying the cause of your headaches. They will create a plan to help you correct the problems identified and work towards a headache free lifestyle.


Page P. CERVICOGENIC HEADACHES: AN EVIDENCE-LED APPROACH TO CLINICAL MANAGEMENT. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy2011;6(3):254-266.