Helpful resources from the Macquarie Physiotherapy Team

Is One Headache the Same as Another?

Sore Neck

It estimated that half to three quarters of adults aged 18–65 years will have had a headache in the last year. Generally speaking, they may have a known cause or be idiopathic and are often classified as either primary or secondary.

Primary Headaches

These are specifically due to a headache condition and include:

  • Tension-type headache
  • Migraine
  • Cluster headache
  • Other trigeminal autonomic cephalgia’s

Tension headaches are common and usually mild to moderate in intensity. Pain is often felt on both sides of the forehead. Further, tension may also be found in the neck and upper back.

Migraine headaches often include symptoms such as visual disturbance, light sensitivity, seeing bright lights, foggy head and pain being more one sided.

Secondary Headaches

These are often attributed to:

  • Trauma or injury to the head and/or neck
  • Cranial and/or cervical vascular disorder
  • Substance use or its withdrawal
  • Infection
  • Psychiatric disorder

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are a type of secondary headache and are thought to be due to disorders of the neck and upper back. The pain associated with these headaches is believed to be referred from irritated structures (such as muscles and joints) which are innervated by the upper cervical nerves (C1-C3).

Muscle Referral Patterns


headache trigger points

Joint Referral Patterns

The upper neck joints are often involved in this condition and pain from these headaches will be felt in different parts of the face and/or head and neck.

Facet joint referral

Cervicogenic headaches can be complex and they are often chronic and misdiagnosed. However, a comprehensive physiotherapy assessment can help identify the condition. Treatment often includes a combination of manual and exercise therapy aimed at improving joint and soft tissue mobility, increasing postural awareness and strengthening specific neck muscles.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from headaches then it would be appropriate to follow up with a qualified health professional. Head over to our Fix Your Pain page to find the right physiotherapist for you!

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