Headaches will affect up to 96% of us in our lives at one stage or another. While most require time, patience, some medications or a doctor, there are a few that require the attention of a physio. There are primary and secondary headaches, the former often being of unknown origin.

Secondary headaches can be from serious underlying conditions (tumours, infections, substance abuse) or from other musculoskeletal structures like your ears, nose, teeth and neck.

It is estimated that up to 15-20% of all headaches are actually caused by pain referring from the neck, otherwise called a cervicogenic headache. Here are a few ways you can tell things are being set off by your neck:

• Your headache is accompanied or precipitated by pain in your neck. Pain is referred to the head from the upper three vertebrae of the neck, so this is usually where the irritation arises. Some people will feel it along the base of the skull or the back of their head first.

• Neck movements aggravate your head pain. End of range or awkward movements will often set off your pain, and you may also notice your range of movement is lessened.

• Pushing on points of the neck brings on your headache. Again, this is typically over the top three vertebrae of your neck.

• The headache pain is usually moderate to severe and is not “throbbing” in nature like some headaches.

• Pain is usually on one side of the head and can often occur in the face or around the eye. Described as pain in the periorbital area, this is a common referral pattern for a cervicogenic headache.

• There are no visual disturbances, nausea or vomiting. A cervicogenic headache typically isn’t associated with any changes in your vision or other autonomic symptoms like migraines and other headaches can do. If you are experiencing these, you are better to chat to your GP.

If these symptoms sound like you, get in touch with one of the team at Healthzone Physiotherapy for a full assessment of your headaches. We will use the manual therapy techniques necessary to manage your pain, provide you with exercises and a management plan. If we don’t believe your headaches are cervicogenic, we will refer you to your GP for further assessment.

Contact HealthZone Physiotherapy today on: (09) 477 2098

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Rebecca graduated from AUT in 2008 with her Bachelor of Health Science in Physiotherapy and started working in a West Auckland private practice. She quickly gained an interest in sports physiotherapy including injury prevention and management. Rebecca worked for four years with premier and reserve club rugby teams including Waitemata and Kumeu / Helensville. She was the physio for the Western Pioneers team in 2012 when they won the North Harbour competition. Rebecca also practiced as a community physiotherapist administering the Otago Exercise Programme which focused on falls prevention for the independent elderly. Through these clients, she developed a curiosity in chronic pain conditions. While she has had plenty of experience in standard post surgical rehabilitation, she took a particular interest in Functional Reactivation Programmes, which work with people suffering persistent pain and complex recoveries post surgery or injury. Rebecca takes an interest in working with clients who have exhausted their channels within the health profession for the management of their pain and enjoys the challenge of helping these patients manage their conditions and return to activities of daily living. To aid in this work, she went on to get her Postgraduate Certificate in Rehabilitation from AUT. Rebecca’s passions include travel, yoga, food, comedy and film – don’t get her started on the topic of movies if you don’t have the time and energy to discuss them with her. She lives in central Auckland and is fiercely local – preferring to commute every day across the bridge than to live any distance away from friends and family!