Neck Pain and Headache – How they are Linked

Neck pain is uncomfortable and debilitating, but the good news is it can be treated to great effect with the help of your physiotherapist. Pain which is experienced around the lower part of the head, temple or above the eyes is often due to cervicogenic headache. Neck-related headaches are more common than you might think, and they can range from mild to moderate intensity. If you’ve noticed a pain which began in the neck and builds into a headache, you should contact your physio immediately for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

In this blog post, Therapy Services Physio will be providing an overview of the causes, symptoms and treatment options for cervicogenic headache and neck pain.


What causes cervicogenic headache?

Cervicogenic headaches can occur for a wide range of reasons, all of which affect the muscle joints and ligaments found in the neck. Within your neck there are nerves, which are responsible for monitoring your body’s internal and external conditions. The nerves carry pain signals throughout your body to alert you of any problems. In the case of neck pain, these signals will spread to the same part of the brain and spinal cord responsible for dealing with pain signals from the head.  Even if you originally only have pain in the neck, this will soon lead to headache.

Within the neck there are many pain producing zones. Most commonly, pain stems from the suboccipital muscles and the C1, C2 and C3 vertebrae in your neck. The reasons these areas may be affected can include:

  • Poor Posture – slouching/slumping
  • Being placed under strain
  • Holding an awkward position for an extended period
  • Injury sustained during sport
  • Whiplash following a car accident

Neck pain and injury isn’t just muscle, nerve and joint related. It can also be due diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and ankylosing spondylitis. If you experience neck pain, you should visit your GP and physiotherapist as soon as possible to determine the reasons for this.

Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headache

Symptoms of cervicogenic headache can vary depending upon the individual, but in general you will notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Neck Pain
  • Swelling and tenderness around the neck
  • Stiff neck movement
  • Headache which comes about shortly after noticing neck pain


Treatment Options for Neck Pain and Headache

Before commencing treatment, your physio will firstly perform an examination to determine the cause of your headache. Issues with the joints and muscles around the upper part of the neck will be noted, and the treatment plan will be aimed at restoring function to these areas.

Manual therapy is one of the most effective ways of relieving headache symptoms. This will involve joint mobilisation as well as trigger point release, which will restore full function to your joints and make it easier for you to maintain good posture.

Other physio treatments may include:

  • Soft tissue massage to ease muscle tension
  • Taping
  • Dry needling
  • Custom exercises designed to provide relief, build muscle, ease tension and help limit the chances of re-occurrence.
  • Ergonomic assessment to correct any poor postural habits and/or inefficiencies in your daily workspace


A comprehensive management program for cervicogenic headache will involve a combination of education, exercise therapy, manual therapy and work practice advice. As physiotherapists, our aim is to help you overcome your symptoms and regain full function so that you can live pain-free long term.

Call Therapy Services Physio Today

Don’t put up with neck pain or persistent headaches, treatment is only a phone call away. Start your recovery journey with Therapy Services Physio today, call now on (02) 8382 6935 or email to schedule an appointment.