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Cervicogenic Headaches – The “Neck Headache”

Cervicogenic Headaches – The “Neck Headache”

A cervicogenic headache is a headache disorder that affects an estimated 2.2% of the population. What makes a cervicogenic headache different from other headaches is that it is not truly a headache; it is actually a type of referred pain. Referred pain is when the body perceives pain in a location different from where the actual pain is. For example, sometimes when you hit your “funny bone” you may feel a pain in your shoulder. In this case, the headache pain is being referred from bones or soft tissues in the neck. The upper cervical spinal cord has many bundles of nerves that transfer sensation between the neck and the head, which allows for the referral of pain.

How Cervicogenic Headaches Are Diagnosed

Diagnosing a cervicogenic headache can be a difficult process. Though diagnostic criteria are established, often times the presenting patient’s symptoms are hard to tell apart from those of a migraine, tension headache, or other headache disorder. The approach to diagnosing a cervicogenic headache (and also treating it) is multi-disciplined. The diagnostic factors are:

  • Usually, cervicogenic headaches are unilateral, meaning they start on one side at the back of the head, migrate towards the front, and sometimes cause arm pain.
  • Misalignment, muscle spasms, or other cervical dysfunction during a manual exam.
  • Headaches that occur when pressing on a trigger point in the neck or head.
  • Sustained neck positions which aggravate the pain.
  • X-rays and other imaging returns with normal results.
  • Occasionally nausea and/or dizziness.

Some types of cervicogenic headaches cause bilateral pain, and the headache starts out as neck pain or the neck pain exists along with the headache. In this form, the pain is exacerbated by certain movements of the neck. This form of headache is more common in occupations like hair-dressing, truck driving, or carpentry.

Who Gets Cervicogenic Headaches?

Roughly 47% of the world’s population suffers from headaches, and it is estimated that 15-20% of those are cervicogenic. Some research suggests that adults with neck pain are more susceptible to cervicogenic headaches. It has also been noted that four times as many females as males get cervicogenic headaches. During an examination, a doctor will consider any history of trauma, as well as the age of the patient. Usually, younger patients (ages 10-13) have dysfunction in the lower cervical spine, whereas older patients tend to have dysfunction in the upper cervical spine.

How Are Cervicogenic Headaches Treated?

Like diagnosis, treatment should be multi-disciplined. Usually, it is a combination of posture adjustment, massage, physiotherapy, acupuncture, steroid injections, hydrotherapy, and medication. Most patients (70%) are pain-free within a month.


To learn more or to seek treatment, contact KCA Neurology in Franklin and Clarksville, TN at 615.550.1800.


Sleep Apnea 101: When Snoring isn’t Normal

Sleep Apnea 101: When Snoring isn’t Normal

Many people snore in their sleep. Most of the time it is harmless, and goes away when you change positions in your sleep. Sometimes, however, it can signal a much more serious problem called sleep apnea. Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition in which individuals actually stop breathing intermittently during the night. Sleep apnea is treatable, and it’s important to understand the condition to prevent it from affecting you or a loved one with serious consequences.


Sleep Apnea Basics and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea breathing pauses during sleep typically last between 10 and 20 seconds, but they can occur many times during the night and can even wake the person experiencing the condition. The next day, you may notice feeling more fatigued than normal. When left untreated, this cycle can affect your general health over time. It can precipitate or worsen conditions like diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure, and more.

There are two main types of sleep apnea, central and obstructive. With central sleep apnea, your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. This happens because your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Other conditions, such as heart failure or a stroke, make also results in central sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea that physicians treat. During obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles of the throat relax during sleep and block the airway. Snoring is an indicator that someone may have the condition, which commonly affects individuals who are overweight, but can also occur during the aging process.

Upon awaking, sleep apnea patients may choke or gasp at the lack of air. Many patients don’t remember waking up intermittently, but they are still affected from the sleep disturbance the next day.



Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea commonly involves using a breathing device called a CPAP. While CPAP technology has been around for years, it has recently become much more comfortable for patients to adopt. The technology keeps airways open during sleep, preventing the symptoms of sleep apnea. Alternatively, some individuals may undergo a medical procedure to alter their respiratory passages and promote the flow of air during sleep. Losing weight, stopping smoking, avoiding caffeine, and maintaining a regular sleep routine are all ways that individuals can effectively reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. Talk to your physician about healthy lifestyle changes that may help.


When to Seek Help

If you notice symptoms such as chronic fatigue, frequent wakefulness during the night, headaches in the morning, or having dry mouth upon waking, you may have sleep apnea. If your partner frequently mentions that you have been snoring during the evening, try to keep a sleep diary or record yourself sleeping to determine if you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Ask your doctor whether a sleep study or further evaluation is necessary.

Contact KCA Neurology to learn more about sleep apnea.