Diagnosing Cervicogenic Headache is Easy

August 17, 2009 by dean · Leave a Comment 

I mentioned recently that blocking the greater occipital nerve and eliminating head pain is key sign of cervicogenic or neck headache and that this has been demonstrated repeatedly in migraine sufferers.

This procedure (injecting nerves) however is not necessary to diagnose cervicogenic headache which is just as well because after all it is invasive, not readily available and relatively expensive.

The ability to temporarily reproduce familiar head pain when examining joints of the upper neck is recognised by traditional medicine as one of the most important indicators of cervicogenic headache (actually, I have to disagree with this, reproduction alone is not enough – there needs to be lessening of the head pain as the examination technique is sustained – more of that later).

It is irresponsible to recommend treatment of the neck for headache or migraine when it is not the cause and therefore it is crucial that reproduction and lessening of head pain occurs during the examination.

The examination approach I have developed on the basis of 21000 hours experience is unparalleled – in recent research familiar head pain was reproduced in 100% of tension headache sufferers and 94% of migraineurs …. now I could be cynical and say that 100% had tension headache and cervicogenic headache and 94% migraine sufferers had cervicogenic headache as well.



( Akin Takmaz et al. Greater occipital nerve block in migraine headache: Preliminary results of 10 patients. Agri. 2008 Jan;20(1):47-50

Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society. The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edn. Cephalalgia 2004; 24(suppl.1):1-151

Rozen T. Cessation of hemiplegic migraine auras with greater occipital nerve blockade. Headache 2007;47:917-928

Sjaastad O, Fredricksen TA, Pfaffenrath V. Cervicogenic headache: diagnostic criteria. Headache 1998; 38:442-5

Yi X et al Cervicogenic headache in patients with presumed migraine: missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis? J Pain. 2005 Oct;6(10):700-3

Young et al Greater occipital nerve and other anesthetic injections for primary headache disorders. Headache 2008;48:1122-1125

Young et al. The first 5 minutes after greater occipital nerve block. Headache 2008;48:1126-1139 )

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About dean
Consultant Headache & Migraine Physiotherapist; International Teacher; Director, The Headache Clinic & Watson Headache Institute; PhD Candidate Murdoch University, Western Australia; Adjunct Lecturer, Masters Program, Physiotherapy School, University of South Australia; MAppSc(Res) GradDipAdvManipTher Experienced health practitioners trained in the Watson Headache Approach perform the examination and treatment techniques developed by Dean Watson. These techniques are based on his extensive experience of 7000 headache patients (21,000 hours) over 21 years and are now taught internationally. For your nearest practitioner who has completed training in the ‘Watson Headache Approach’ please refer to the ‘Practitioner Directory’.

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