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Cervicogenic Headache

Cervicogenic headache occurs when pain is referred from a specific source in the neck up to the head. (

I woke up January 2nd with a tension headache coming from the base of the right side of my head. It was achy and felt different than the normal migraine headaches I deal with. I took an Aleve and a muscle relaxer that night and felt much better.

I woke up the next morning feeling a little achy still and as I was walking through my kitchen I felt a sharp stabbing pain go from the middle of my neck on the right side up through the top of my head. It was so sharp and painful that it literally took my breath away. My neck and shoulders were super tense. My neck felt swollen on the inside like something was very very wrong.

This achy, stabby pain was again very different from the normal migraine pain that I have. The normal migraine pain I deal with is so severe, one sided, and comes with a lot of other symptoms than just headache. I usually take my rescue meds, lay down and wait for the pain to subside which it typically does. I’ve had a few that I have needed to go get shots for….This was completely different and constant.

I began to have a pressure build in my neck, head and face that would weave in and out of migraine pain. The pressure and aching was constant. My right eye hurt. If I put any pressure on my right eyebrow it would send pain down the side of my face to my neck. The back of my head hurt, the side of my head hurt, the front of my face hurt, my neck hurt and nothing I was doing would make it go away.

My neurologist called me in a steroid taper pack because at this point we are thinking that I am having a migraine that isn’t responding to my meds. But something just felt wrong. The week went on, I took the meds. No change. I called them daily. Went in the see them- and called them throughout the weekend. Thankfully it was my dr. that was on call. I kept saying the same thing- something feels wrong in my neck: it feels swollen on the inside of my neck and the pressure and aching aren’t like anything I have experienced before with migraine. This is different. I need help.

I went in the following Monday morning and had two MRI’s done. One of my head and one of my neck. Turns out something was wrong- a pretty significant disc bulge at c5-c6. This disc bulge had created a ton of inflammation in my neck causing my neck muscles to basically over guard and compress my occipital nerve. I left with a prescription for pain meds and a referral to our local spine care clinic.

That Thursday I was seen by a spine specialist who suggested we do an epidural nerve block at the disc and then possibly an occipital block. I was scheduled for the next day. I have never had anything like this done before. I didn’t quite realize what we were doing so I decided to do it without sedation…never again.

The nerve block at the disc was super helpful. I didn’t realize just how long my neck had been hurting until it wasn’t hurting anymore. I have most likely been dealing with this disc issue for months without knowing that it was a disc issue. I kept going to my chiropractor for adjustments to this area because it felt swollen and I was having an uptick in daily headaches…..won’t be doing that anymore.

After the block I no longer have pain when I touch my eyebrow or back of head. My neck doesn’t feel swollen and doesn’t hurt in the area where it was constantly hurting. I am still having pressure in my head from the occipital muscles and headaches. My spine dr. referred me to physical therapy to see if I can get some relief in the occipital area before we try the occipital block. We are working on correcting my posture and a lot of trigger point release. The trigger point release is such a painful good feeling. We are trying dry needling on my next appointment.

One of the main things I have learned from this experience: You are your own best advocate. I knew that I wasn’t having a hard to break migraine cycle. I knew something was wrong inside of me. It was up to me to keep after it and to make someone listen.

416 thoughts on “Cervicogenic Headache

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