Cervicogenic type headaches are commonly mistaken for tension type headaches but are in fact different.  “Cervico-genic” roughly translates to “of neck origin”.  These are headaches that originate from the neck structures like the small muscles just below the head.   These headaches can refer to the head itself or into the face and can be reproduced by challenging specific neck structures.  In clinic, I arrive at a cervicogenic diagnosis after performing an appropriate history and physical examination using the following guidelines: (The following is for reference only and is not meant to be used by you to self-diagnose a condition)

  1. The pain is referred from a source in the neck and can be felt at the head, neck or both
  2. Clinical findings, medical imaging or testing elude to a disorder of the neck or soft tissue of the neck
  3. Clinical signs that implicate the neck as the likely source such as joint and muscle challenges that reproduce headache
  4. A history of previous injury such as a motor vehicle accident with resultant neck pain
  5. Differentiated from tension type headaches when the only referral cause is through trigger point of muscles of the area.
  6. No focal neurological signs or symptoms are present.
  7. No noise or light sensitivity, nausea or vomiting is present.

Source: Hainder et al.  2013. American Family Physician.  “Approach to acute Headaches in adults” http://www.aafp.org/afp/2013/0515/p682.html

Source: “Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Headache Disorders in Adults”