Physiotherapy & Sports Physiotherapists | Back In Motion

Make a booking

Is it a migraine or a neck-related headache?

Published: 27 August 2019 - Physio Tips, Wellbeing

Image of a woman in the sun

Many people who attend a Back In Motion practice with neck pain often also present with regular headaches and headache-related symptoms.

But how do we know when our headaches are a direct result of our neck pain or are in fact true migraines?

Tell me about neck-related headaches

Headaches arising from the neck, also called cervico-genic headaches, are often described as a dull ache that extends from the neck and travels towards the base of the skull - sometimes all the way to the back of the eye.

People can often describe their pain as a gradual onset that surfaces with prolonged periods of sitting, often with a preceding symptom of a heavy head.

They may also present with physical-related postural symptoms such as slouched shoulders and forward head posture, restricted neck movements, tight neck muscles and stiff and painful cervical joints.

Such headaches respond favourably with treatment techniques such as massage, joint mobilisations and stretches. But this is only a short-term measure.

Without correct intervention of the underlying postural elements, such symptoms are highly likely to resurface.

Long-term management involves the prescription of exercises - such as a tailored Clinical Exercise program - to strengthen the deep musculature of the neck, as well as those surrounding the shoulder blades. 

But this feels like a migraine

Migraine sufferers can often present with many of the postural elements and physical assessment findings found with cervico-genic headaches.

However, sufferers will also experience other symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light, temporary loss of vision or blurred vision and vomiting. A true migraine will present as much more severe than a typical headache, making daily tasks difficult to perform, and can often linger for days at a time.

Although physiotherapy management can assist with any underlying postural dysfunctions or musculoskeletal symptoms, often pain relieving medications can assist the sufferer with resuming their daily tasks at a faster rate.

So next time you're experiencing a headache, remember some of the key differences between cervico-genic headaches and migraines. This will help you determine the best course of treatment.  

If you are experiencing any of these contact your local Back In Motion to arrange a Free Initial Assessment. 

This blog post was authored by the team at Back In Motion Sydenham.