20 percent of patients at pain management clinics report having cervicogenic migraines. You may have never heard of this form of migraine, but it’s more common than you’d think.

Any migraine, regardless of the type, can cause severe pain and affect every aspect of your life.

The referred pain in the neck differentiates a cervicogenic headache. Many people who experience them want to know how serious these migraines are.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about cervicogenic migraines.

What is a Cervicogenic Headache?

There are two types of migraines: primary and secondary. Cervicogenic headaches are a form of secondary migraine because they are caused by an underlying condition.

The underlying condition is based on the upper vertebrae of the spine. The C2-3 vertebrae, to be specific.

The pain usually starts near the base of the neck and radiates over the head towards the face. Some symptoms include:

  • Restricted motion in the neck
  • Pain in the face, head, or shoulders
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Light and noise sensitivity

Although cluster headaches and migraines can cause neck pain, cervicogenic headaches manifest in neck pain but are caused by something else.

What Causes Them?

Cervicogenic headaches originate from issues in the vertebrae at the top of the spine, around the neck.

You could develop these migraines from straining and overexerting your neck. They can also develop after experiencing whiplash in a car accident or other physical trauma.

Other issues that affect the top vertebrae and can cause cervicogenic migraines include infections, tumors, fractures, and arthritis.

Your doctor will want to find the root cause of your migraines before recommending treatment. They will need to be sure you aren’t experiencing neck pain from regular migraines, but in fact, cervicogenic migraines.

How to Treat Cervicogenic Migraines

If you suspect you may be experiencing cervicogenic migraines, you should see your doctor sooner rather than later. The pain can continue to get worse and more frequent when left unaddressed.

Depending on the underlying cause, your doctor will recommend different treatments. Many include medications and physical therapy.

Some other forms of treatment (depending on the origin) include:

  • Nerve block injections
  • Neuromodulation
  • Radiofrequency ablation

Chiropractor care for headaches can be especially helpful for cervicogenic migraines.

Since migraine pain can lead to decreased mental health, your doctor may also suggest antidepressant medication and relaxation techniques.

So, Are They Serious?

The answer to this question is yes and no.

Cervicogenic migraines can be a sign of a serious underlying issue. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor and find out the root cause.

The pain that comes with any type of migraine can be serious. Especially when it affects your job and relationships.

However, a cervicogenic headache isn’t usually a medical emergency. You likely don’t need to rush to the emergency room when one occurs.

Stay up to date on the latest pain relief treatments in the Pain section of our Medical Blog.

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