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Your neck might be causing your headache

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Man with hands on head; experiencing headache

GREEN BAY – For some people, getting a headache is just a pain in the neck.

For others, their headache is caused by problems with their neck.

This type of headache is called a cervicogenic headache. It’s often related to issues with your neck facet joints. Facet joints are joints in the spine that make your back and neck flexible and enable you to bend and twist. The facet joints can become inflamed due to injury or degenerative changes, which triggers pain signals, resulting in a headache.

During a cervicogenic headache, people experience pain that radiates from the neck and is felt toward the front of the head.

People who work in a job requiring them to strain their neck – truck drivers, hair stylists, manual laborers – are often among those who develop cervicogenic headaches. Others may experience them after a sports injury, from osteoarthritis in the neck joints, from whiplash or after developing a tumor or fracture in the upper spine.

Symptoms of a cervicogenic headache include, but are not limited to:

  • Reduced range of motion in the neck
  • Pain on the side of the head or face
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision

Left untreated, cervicogenic headaches can worsen and become debilitating.

Cervicogenic headaches are diagnosed during an exam with your doctor or pain medicine specialist. Any noticeable stiffness and muscle tightness in your neck may warrant a closer look via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other appropriate imaging procedure. The results of these tests will help the doctor determine the best treatment options for you.

Treatment for cervicogenic headaches range from non-invasive treatments such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy to minimally-invasive treatments such as facet joint steroid injection, radiofrequency ablation (using heat to deaden pain nerves) and acupuncture.

See your doctor if you have recurring headaches that interfere with your daily activities. There is hope for those struggling with cervicogenic headaches.

Published: Wednesday, June 24, 2020