Headaches are a common complaint and can often originate from the neck.
When headaches are felt at the back of the head, or around the sides of the head they are often 'cervicogenic headaches' meaning they are referred pain from the neck.
What is a Cervicogenic Headache?
Any structure in the top three segments of your neck, such as ligaments, joint capsules, muscles etc, can refer pain to the back and sides of your head. When pain is felt in the head but it originates in these structures it is called a cervicogenic headache.
What Does it Feel Like?
The headache is often felt on one side, or it may be bilateral. It is generally an 'ache' type pain rather than a sharp or burning pain. It is usually of mild to moderate intensity. Neck pain or tightness generally accompanies it, particularly on the same side as the headache if the headache is one-sided.
What Causes the Neck Pain?
Often cervicogenic headaches are caused by poor sitting posture. If you slouch when sitting at the computer, for example, then you will have to extend your neck in order to be looking straight ahead. This compresses the top few segments of the neck, causing pain.
Other times structures in the upper part of the neck may have sustained an acute injury like a joint sprain.
How Do We Fix it?
Treatment to relieve pain and stiffness in the affected areas, such as massage and joint mobilisations, will help to relieve headaches. Exercises and ergonomic changes are generally required to improve posture and reduce the load on the affected joints as well.