Headaches in general terms have many causes. They are classified according to  International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD). The two main groups are Primary and Secondary Headaches.

Primary: Tension Headaches and Migraines – cluster headache & trigeminal neuralgia

Secondary: Cervicogenic, medication use

We are going to concentrate on Cervicogenic Headaches which means headaches originating in the neck (cervical region). These are most often caused by:
Traumatic incident(i.e. Whiplash, intracranial trauma, head or neck injury ).
Without trauma (repetitious neck movements – painting, poor neck posture, muscle imbalance, muscle weakness, neck degeneration).

Headaches are usually caused from one of the following:

  • Poor Neck and Thorax posture
  • Neck Muscle weakness
  • Levator Scapulae Syndrome
  • Bursitis (C7)
  • Neck Degeneration (age or previous trauma)
  • Nerve Irritation/ Compression / Referred Pain (sub-occipital triangle, C1-C3 nerve roots)
  • Poor neck Biomechanics/ Posture (dynamic stability)
  • Muscle Tears/Spasm (Muscular- cervical erector spinae)
  • Stress, Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Dehydration


Headaches can be a sign of a life-threatening illness. If the headache comes on quickly, is associated with inability to see, speak, jaw pain, fever, balance, think, move or radiates into the arms seek medical attention immediately.

If your head hurts, don’t ignore it. Physiotherapists are well trained to give an accurate diagnosis and treatment the problem. We can refer for MRI, CT, X-ray, Ultrasound or blood test as required. We are able to provide a proven, safe and effective treatment.

Physiotherapy Aims
1) Treat the pain and other symptoms
2) Help identify the causes to prevent recurrence
3) Provide self-management strategies

Treatment: Strong Evidence in Literature
1) Specific Neck & Back strengthening and general exercise programs
2) Mobilisation, Manipulation and Hands On Therapy – Myofascial Release
(Manipulation is traumatic and should only be used for certain conditions)

3) Acupuncture / Dry Needling
4) Ergonomic / Sleeping position Modification
5) Electrotherapy (TENS)

Treatment: Others
1) Postural Modification (taping, innersoles, orthotics, body awareness exercises)
2) Hydrotherapy (great supportive environment)
3) Supportive Taping / Bracing
4) Use of Gels, Creams, Hot & Cold

5) Sports Specific Rehabilitation

Headaches are very individual due to the large number of structures and factors that contribute to your condition. What works for others may not work for you and you will have to trial various treatments under the guidance of your Physiotherapist to find what works for your particular condition.