What is cervicogenic headache?

Headache is a very common complaint worldwide. It is a very important problem that must be combated, also from an economic point of view. In the Netherlands, headaches are even one of the main causes of short-term absenteeism from work. However, there are different types of headaches, each of which can be treated differently. Types of headaches include migraine, cervicogenic headache, and tension headache. Cervicogenic headache is a specific type of headache that originates in the neck. The idea that headaches could be caused by a functional disorder in the neck was already scientifically stated by Lentijo and Ramos in 1821. When this headache occurs, one often also experiences pain in the neck and forehead and is also characterized by radiating the pain. Other side effects such as nausea, light-headedness and dizziness also occur. Nerve blocks are usually used to treat cervicogenic headaches, but the results are variable and have not yet been scientifically proven. Painkillers are often used, also with varying degrees of success.

Diagnosis and treatment of cervicogenic headache

Much research has been done into the diagnosis and treatment of cervicogenic headaches, but the results of these studies are not clear. The most important thing, of course, is that the correct diagnosis is first made, so that there is actually a cervicogenic headache. If this is clear and there is a cervicogenic headache, treatment can also be started. There is not yet a manual for diagnosing cervicogenic headaches, but a Norwegian neurologist has identified three aspects as characteristic.

Double-sided headache

The headache is sometimes bilateral, but normally one side is predominant in the area of the headache.

Provocation of the headache

The headache is provoked by holding a certain head position or moving the head for a long time, and the headache has no fixed pattern.

Movement restrictions

There are restrictions in movement that make it difficult to turn the head to the side.

Causes of cervicogenic headaches

It is estimated that 15 to 20% of chronic and recurrent headaches are cervicogenic headaches. Cervicogenic headaches also regularly occur after whiplash or other neck trauma. In general, cervicogenic headaches are more common in women than in men. In principle, headaches can occur at any age and are therefore usually related to trauma, a degenerative joint disease or long-term, one-sided strain on the head.


The translation of whiplash is whiplash, but the term whiplash does not actually cover the meaning of the term whiplash because it refers to a muscle problem. However, whiplash is much more than a problem with the muscles and can affect underlying tissue in the neck, the ligaments in and around the neck, but also the soft tissues. Overall, whiplash is therefore quite complex and can have serious consequences. Whiplash can occur as a result of a car accident in which the head snaps forward and backward or vice versa, but there are also other causes such as a fall down the stairs or an accident during sports. Whiplash can have serious consequences for the person who experiences it, and these consequences can range from mild to serious and from short-term to permanent problems. Headache as a result of whiplash is one of the complaints one may encounter, but concentration problems can also play a role.

Consequences of whiplash

After the onset of whiplash, it varies from person to person how the complaints will develop. Complaints can occur immediately after whiplash, but it is also possible that the first complaints only appear after a few days. The complaints can manifest themselves in poor vision, concentration problems, persistent fatigue, but also sleeping problems, forgetfulness and headaches can also be part of the complaint pattern. For the majority of people with whiplash, the complaints that occur will disappear within a year, but there is also a portion of people who remain confronted with the consequences of whiplash for a longer period of time.