4 cervicogenic headache exercises you’ll want to know about when your head starts pounding

June 19, 2022

A cervicogenic headache is throbbing pain that most often starts at the base of the skull, where your neck meets your head. The headache usually becomes worse, spreading from the neck into the back and sides of the head. Cervicogenic headache pain is usually felt on one side of the head, but can also spread to the shoulder and even to the arm. A loss of neck flexibility and blurred vision are also symptoms that may accompany a cervicogenic headache.

So what causes cervicogenic headaches to happen? Experts say that a traumatic neck injury, such as whiplash after a car accident, can cause cervicogenic headaches to occur. The nerves in our neck can become pinched or damaged, which triggers the pain in our head.

However, injuries are not the only cause of cervicogenic headaches. High blood pressure, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as infections in the neck area, can also contribute to these kinds of headaches occurring. While it is important to seek help from a specialist, doing simple exercises can help to temporarily relieve the pain from cervicogenic headaches.

How can I ease the pain from a cervicogenic headache with exercises?

For quick relief from the pain of a cervicogenic headache, here are 4 exercises that physical therapists recommend:

  1. Chin tuck — Sit upright and look straight ahead. Place one finger on your chin. Without moving your finger, pull your chin and head straight back until you feel a stretch at the base of your head and top of your neck. Hold for five seconds before bringing your chin back to your finger.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
  2. Cervical towel rotation stretch — You will need a small, folded towel for this exercise. Hold the ends of the towel and wrap it around your head, bringing the ends of the towel together. Use your left arm to anchor the towel in place. Use your right arm to pull the towel to cause a gentle rotational stretch in your neck. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  3. Scapular retraction — Start by relaxing the tops of your shoulders. In this exercise, it helps to imagine that there is a tennis ball located between your shoulder blades. Pinch your shoulder blades together to squeeze the imaginary ball. This exercise helps cervicogenic headaches by helping to strengthen the upper back.
  4. Upper trapezius stretch – Sit up straight with your head and neck in a neutral position. Place one hand behind your back and gently stretch your head away from the arm that is placed behind your back. Hold this for 30 seconds before releasing.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for your cervicogenic headaches

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and who can help you address pain due to cervicogenic headaches. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.