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How physiotherapy can relieve headaches from the neck

Headaches are one of the most common complaints people face. However, what many don’t know is that the cause of their headaches is often found in the neck. This type of headache is called a cervicogenic headache. In this article we will look in more detail at the causes, symptoms, the role of physiotherapy, self-help measures and prevention.

Causes of cervicogenic headache

The neck, medically known as the cervical spine, consists of seven vertebrae. Each vertebra is separated by an intervertebral disc and is surrounded by muscles and ligaments. An accident, incorrect posture or wear and tear can cause problems in this area, triggering headaches.

  1. Whiplash: This is a sudden movement of the neck, often caused by a car accident. This can damage muscles, ligaments and intervertebral discs.
  2. Incorrect posture: Sitting in the same position for long periods of time, especially with the neck bent, can cause muscle and ligament strain.
  3. Wear and tear: With age, the discs can dry out and become thinner, which can cause pain.
  4. Other causes: Infections, tumors, or inflammation can also cause cervicogenic headaches.

Symptoms of cervicogenic headache

Although the cause is in the neck, the symptoms of cervicogenic headache are mainly felt in the head. Typical symptoms are:

  • Pain on one side of the head.
  • Pain radiating from the neck to the forehead.
  • Stiffness or pain when turning the neck.
  • Limited neck mobility.
  • Sometimes also light or noise sensitivity.

How physiotherapists can help

Physical therapy is an effective treatment for cervicogenic headaches. Therapy may include:

  1. Manual therapy: this includes techniques such as massage, mobilization and manipulation to improve neck mobility and reduce muscle tension.
  2. Exercise therapy: Physical therapy can recommend specific exercises to strengthen the neck muscles and increase flexibility.
  3. Counseling and education: learning proper posture and ergonomics to prevent future problems.

What you can do yourself to improve it

  1. Posture: Pay attention to your posture, especially when sitting for long periods of time. Make sure your screen is at eye level and take regular breaks to move around.
  2. Heat: Applying heat can help relieve muscle tension.
  3. Exercises: Regular neck exercises can help reduce stiffness and pain.
  4. Stress management: Stress can lead to muscle tension. Find relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises.

How to prevent it

Prevention is the key. Some tips:

  1. Workstation ergonomics: Provide an ergonomic workstation that promotes proper posture.
  2. Stay active: Regular physical activity helps keep muscles strong and flexible.
  3. Avoid long periods of exertion: Try not to sit or stand in the same position for too long.
  4. Seek help in time: at the first sign of neck pain or headaches, seek the advice of a professional.


Headaches from the neck, also called cervicogenic headaches, can be effectively treated with physical therapy. By identifying the causes, applying the right interventions and taking preventive measures, you can effectively address and prevent this type of headache.

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