Do you suffer from ongoing or repetitive headaches? Could it be helped by physiotherapy?

There are many types of headaches, with different causes and therefore different solutions. There are several types of headache that physiotherapy can assist with. One of these is the cervicogenic headache.

What is a cervicogenic headache?

Cervical – relating to the neck. Genic – causing, forming, producing.

The International Headache Society describes a cervicogenic headache as being a “headache caused by a disorder of the cervical spine…. usually but not invariably accompanied by neck pain”.

A physiotherapist is trained in determining whether a headache originates in the neck. There are some features specific to a cervicogenic headache, such as:

  • Pain on one side of the head. Always the same side of the head.
  • Pain may be located around the eye, the temple, the crown of the head, the back of the head or the base of the skull.
  • May be constant or intermittent, but persists over a long period. An hour to weeks.
  • Moderate to severe intensity. Steady, deep pain.
  • Triggered by neck movements, a certain posture or pressure on the neck. Not always easily identified.
  • Often accompanied by a reduced range of movement of the neck. May be accompanied by nausea or visual changes, but this is unusual.

What can a physiotherapist do to help?

It is important for a physiotherapist to assess your headache and determine what therapy is likely to be appropriate. The source of a cervicogenic headache is usually the top of the neck, it may involve joints, disc, ligaments or muscles. Your physiotherapist will also eliminate other causes for your discomfort.

Physiotherapy may include:

  • Joint mobilisation
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Soft tissue massage


A cervicogenic headache is a headache resulting from mechanical dysfunction at the top of your neck. You may or may not feel pain in the neck. A physiotherapist will diagnose your type of headache and through manual therapy, exercises and education, will help you to resolve or reduce your pain and to correct the dysfunction that caused the headache.