Cervicogenic headache: a real headache

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2011 Apr;11(2):149-55. doi: 10.1007/s11910-010-0164-9.


Although theories regarding headache originating in the neck have existed for more than 150 years, the term "cervicogenic headache" originated in 1983. Early descriptions pinpoint the characteristic symptoms as dizziness, visual disturbances, tinnitus, and "posterior" headache, conceivably as a consequence of arthrosis, infliction upon the vertebral artery, or with a "migrainous" background and occurring in "advanced age." Cervicogenic headache (mean age of onset, 33 years) displays a somewhat different picture: unilateral headache, starting posteriorly, but advancing to the frontal area, most frequently the main site of pain; usually accompanied by ipsilateral arm discomfort, reduced range of motion in the neck, and mechanical precipitation of exacerbations (eg, through external pressure upon hypersensitive, occipital tendon insertions). Treatment options in treatment-resistant cases include cervical stabilization operations and extracranial electrical stimulation. In a personal, population-based study of 1,838 individuals (88.6% of the population), a prevalence of 2.2% "core" cases was found.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / etiology
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / pathology
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / physiopathology*
  • Post-Traumatic Headache / therapy
  • Pregnancy