What is cervicogenic headache?

December 01, 2017 17:30
To avoid cervicogenic headache, always sit with the head facing forward and the back close to the chair.  Photo: Reuters

Headache is a very common illness. The symptoms are similar but the causes vary.

A 50-year-old female patient who suffers from a headache whenever she reads or uses the computer needs to carry painkillers with her wherever she goes. She did a check-up with a chiropractor and was told that her neck only had 50 percent of its normal activity and her neck muscles were extremely tight.

The X-ray showed that the natural lordotic curve in her cervical spine has become abnormally backward. Spine spurs were also found. All these point to the likelihood that her headache was caused by a deformity in her neck. It is called cervicogenic headache.

Fortunately, after receiving treatment such as shockwave therapy, the curvature of her neck has been readjusted and her stressed neck muscles are much relieved.

Cervicogenic headache is very common among heavy digital gadget users. Patients may come from a very different backgrounds, but they all share the same bad postures: hunching their back and tilting their heads and shoulders forward while working. These gestures create tremendous stress on the spine.

Though they may not feel it initially, the spine will gradually become less and less stable, creating stress on the cervical vertebrae muscles and eventually causing serious pain.

Cervicogenic headache is due to the pressure on cervical nerves and its associated conditions include a headache, occipital neuralgia, as well as pain in the forehead, back of the neck, ears, eye area and crown area.

Some patients even experience severe symptoms like ringing in the ears, blurry vision, dizziness and light sensitivity. These symptoms mainly occur on either side of the body and can last for three hours to as long as a week. If the patient maintains certain postures for a prolonged period of time, the situation will get worse.

To avoid cervicogenic headache, always sit with the head facing forward and the back close to the chair. While reading, make sure the article is at eye level and do not tilt forward. Try not to carry heavy stuff around, and if you must, switch hands from time to time or use a cart or backpack instead.

Most cervicogenic headache sufferers are reluctant to visit the doctor. They believe the symptoms will naturally go away after resting for awhile. But if their headache is caused by more complicated problems, their spinal pain will happen more frequently. Patients must keep track of their health and not let the golden period to treat their illness pass.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 20

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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