Headache arising from the neck (i.e. Cervicogenic)

Chiropractors acknowledge that there are many causes of headaches. Where they are related to dysfunction in the cervical spine (neck), there is evidence to show the benefit of spinal manipulation. Headaches of this nature can be unilateral (one-sided) or bilateral (both-sided) and are often located in the back of the head and above the eyes. They are mild-moderate in intensity. Certain activities and posture can worsen the headache, including sustained head position or external pressure over the cervical spine or occipital region.

What is Cervicogenic Headache?

Cervicogenic Headache is caused by misalignments in the neck (the cervical spine) and can also result from reduced mobility in the upper cervical area. The term is used to refer to headaches where the primary causative agent is the neck. Pain may radiate to the forehead (frontal region), the eyes (orbital region), the temple and the ears. The presentation varies. Most people with a pure Cervicogenic Headache may present with a complaint of daily headaches with no neurological signs.

Cervicogenic Headache Causes

Generally speaking Cervicogenic Headaches are more common in females. The current theory is that abnormal movements and postures of the neck result in irritation to the upper 3 cervical nerve roots. Pain referral can be from muscles, ligaments, joint capsules and discs.

Treatment of Cervicogenic Headaches

Chiropractors treat Cervicogenic Headache using a package of care that may include manual therapies, exercise, acupuncture, therapeutic advice and postural advice.

Chiropractic care is very helpful for this type of headache because it can correct the source directly. It is also suggested as a helpful treatment for other types of headaches that share the same cervical element.

Chiropractic was found to have more supportive evidence than any other treatment and was recommended by the Quebec Task Force in the early 1990’s.

Chiropractic treatment includes:

  • Spinal manipulation to restore proper joint motion
  • Trigger Point Therapy to reduce muscular tension
  • Exercises to improve neck mobility
  • Postural advice
  • Lifestyle advice


There is evidence to support this approach to patient management: