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  • Darcy Jorgensen

Headaches: A pain in the neck

To date, there have been over 150 different types of documented headaches and migraines. Despite the large array of causes and symptoms, recent research suggests that some headaches and migraines may have more in common than originally thought - the neck. Sometimes, muscle and joint issues in the neck, refer pain through nerve pathways into the head and face, causing headaches and migraines. This is referred to as a ‘Cervicogenic Headache’.


Put simply, the term ‘Cervicogenic’ means that the headache’s origin, o r ‘genesis,’ is from the cervical joints in the neck. Although the anatomical process of how this occurs is quite complex, it can be understood fairly easily. Nerves from the head and face travel to the top three cervical joints, where they converge with nerves from the neck and shoulders (seen below). Because of the intimate connection between the nerves of the head/face and the nerves from our neck/shoulders, an odd phenomenon can result. Pain that originates in the neck through tight, stiff or irritated joints and muscles travels up along the nerve pathways to be

felt in the head and face, causing headaches and Cross-over between facial nerves

migraines...............................................................................and nerves from the neck.



This has been replicated in research studies where, after receiving saline injections into the upper joints of the neck, the participants consistently report pain in the head and face. The implications of this research have gone as far as being able to predict the location of the person’s pain depending on which joint in the neck is irritated. Some common pain sites can be seen in the image below.













Common cervicogenic headache and migraine pain referral locations.


The good news? Cervicogenic Headaches are treatable with Physiotherapy – if you fix the neck, you fix the headaches. Darcy is a Physiotherapist trained in specialised techniques to identify and treat headache and migraine-inducing neck disorders. To learn more about his Headache and Migraine specific training, visit The Watson Headache Approach.


If you think you may be suffering from Cervicogenic Headaches, or if you aren’t sure what the cause of your headaches or migraines is, we offer a free Headache Discovery Session where Darcy will assess your headache or migraine, neck and shoulders, and any other associated symptoms. To learn more about the session click here.

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