Neck pain and headaches are two unwelcome companions that often travel hand-in-hand. While we might groan and massage our temples at the first sign of a throbbing headache, have you ever considered that the culprit might be lurking in your neck?

Pain from the nerves and muscles in your neck, as well as from poor posture, can trigger cervicogenic (neck pain-related) headaches. It is important to identify and treat them as they can significantly impact your daily life and productivity.

Let’s break down what cervicogenic headaches are, how to spot them, what causes them, and how we can help you get neck pain relief in Croydon.

Understanding Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches can arise from irritation in the upper part of your spine, specifically the cervical spine in your neck. This area comprises structures like facet joints, intervertebral discs, ligaments, and muscles, all innervated (supplied by nerves) by the first three cervical nerves. When these structures become inflamed or irritated, pain signals can travel up to your head, causing a headache.

While the most common referral comes from the upper neck, some evidence suggests that irritation in the lower shoulder and upper back can also contribute to cervicogenic headaches.

Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches have distinct characteristics that can help differentiate them from other headaches. Here are some key symptoms to watch out for:

  • One-sided headache (unilateral): This is a hallmark symptom, with pain often radiating from the back of the skull towards the eye in a “ram’s horn” pattern.
  • Neck pain: Unilateral or diffuse neck pain often accompanies the headache.
  • Pain on one side of the shoulder or arm: In some cases, the pain might extend down to the shoulder or arm on the same side as the headache.
  • Limited neck movement: You might experience a reduced range of motion when trying to turn or tilt your head.
  • Tenderness in the back of the neck: The muscles in the back of your neck might be especially sensitive to touch.

Common Causes of Cervicogenic Headaches

Several factors can contribute to the development of cervicogenic headaches:

  • Posture: Jobs that involve prolonged sitting or awkward positions, like desk work or some trades, can lead to postural imbalances. These imbalances put undue stress on the muscles and joints in your neck, triggering headaches.
  • Sleeping positions: Using too many or too few pillows, sleeping on your stomach, or simply falling asleep in an awkward position can irritate the structures in your neck.
  • Injuries: Whiplash from car accidents or sports injuries can damage the neck muscles and joints, leading to cervicogenic headaches. Additionally, degenerative disc disorders or osteoarthritis can also contribute to neck pain and headaches.

Treatment Options for Cervicogenic Headaches

The good news is that cervicogenic headaches often respond well to non-surgical treatments. Here at Healing Hands Osteopathy, we can help you find relief through a combination of approaches:

  • Osteopathic Techniques: Our skilled practitioners are trained to identify the root cause of your headaches, such as in your neck. Using manual therapy techniques, such as remedial massages for neck pain, we can relieve neck muscle tension and help alleviate your headache.
  • Posture and Exercise: We’ll work with you to modify your posture and daily activities to reduce stress on your neck. This might involve recommendations for your workspace setup or specific exercises to strengthen and improve your posture.
  • Pain Management: In some cases, short-term use of pain relievers like anti-inflammatories or paracetamol can help manage your pain. However, it’s vital to be cautious with pain medication and to consult us if your pain persists. We can help you understand your condition and explore other effective ways to manage your symptoms.

Preventing Cervicogenic Headaches

While professional treatment can address existing cervicogenic headaches, incorporating preventive measures and self-care practices into your daily routine is key to reducing their frequency and intensity. Here’s how you can take charge of your well-being and minimise the risk of these headaches:


  • Stand Tall:  Whether you’re sitting, standing, or walking, aim to keep your ears aligned with your shoulders and your spine in a neutral position. Imagine (and try to maintain) a straight line running from your earlobe through your shoulder and down to your hip.
  • Sit Smart: If you have a desk job, invest in an ergonomic chair that provides proper lumbar support and allows your knees to bend at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Sleep Soundly: Choose a pillow that offers proper support and keeps your head and neck in alignment with your spine. Avoid using too many pillows or sleeping on your stomach, which can strain your neck muscles.


  • Regular Exercise: Incorporate whole-body activities into your routine, aiming for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days. Consider swimming, walking, yoga, or Pilates to enhance fitness and posture, relieving neck stress.
  • Neck Pain Relief Exercises: Perform gentle neck and upper back stretches regularly to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension, potential triggers for headaches. Here are a few to start with:
    • Neck Side Bends: Tilt your head towards one shoulder until a stretch is felt. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
    • Chin Tucks: Lower your chin to your chest to stretch the back of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds.
    • Upper Trapezius Stretch: Tilt and turn your head slightly away from the side you’re stretching, applying gentle pressure for a deeper stretch. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Mind-Body Awareness

  • Daily Movement Breaks: If you have a desk job, set a timer to remind yourself to take short breaks every 30-60 minutes. During these breaks, get up and move around, stretch your neck and shoulders, and adjust your posture.
  • Ergonomics at Home: Be mindful of your body mechanics during everyday activities. Avoid carrying heavy bags on one shoulder, and lift objects with proper form, keeping your back straight and core engaged.
  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can contribute to neck muscle tension and, consequently, headaches. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation can help manage stress and reduce the risk of cervicogenic headaches.

Choose Healing Hands Osteopathy For Neck Pain Headache Relief

When it comes to managing and overcoming the discomfort of cervicogenic headaches, you don’t have to navigate the journey alone. Choose Healing Hands Osteopathy for comprehensive, personalised treatment plans designed to address the root cause of your pain.

Our experienced team is dedicated to helping you manage your headaches and support you in your quest for long-term wellness. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and take the first step towards a happier, healthier you.