The faster you diagnose, correctly, your headaches or migraines, the faster you can find relief. It has taken me more than a year -- so I wanted to post about cervicogenic (neck based) headaches, so you can avoid misdiagnosis.
I do also get more traditional menstrual migraines and tension headaches, but after 5 years of migraine prophylactic treatment, numerous visits to the GP and National Migraine Clinic and hours and hours researching on the web, I am now convinced that the real culprit is in fact my neck. While doctors have generally been extremely dismissive, my physiotherapist and osteopath have been certain from day one that most of my headaches were neck-related.
There is much more detail in the article (best I've found) at the link below, but here are the high-level top messages:
1. What is it? Cervicogenic headache is a syndrome characterized by (often one-sided) chronic pain that is referred to the head from either bony structures or soft tissues of the neck.
2. How do I know if I've got it? It can be difficult to distinguish from primary headache disorders such as migraine, tension-type headache, but main features include: one-sided head pain, head pain triggered by neck movement, awkward neck posture or pressure points in the neck; stiff or restricted motion in neck. Symptoms can include ones similar to migraine e.g., nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, etc.
3. Isn't the migraine causing the neck pain, not the other way round? It can work both ways or the two can build on each other. But if you've got neck pain, don't just assume it is because of migraines.
4. What treatments work? Like with most headaches, my personal summary is that "no-one really knows" or "it's a lot of trial and error". The link below provides a long list of possibilities, but it seems that a combination of medications and physical manipulation are often most effective.
5. What has worked for me? I'm still working through the options, and while I haven't found a "solution" (i.e., something that would permanently remove the root cause), the things that have really helped with the symptoms include:
- Alexander technique
- prophylactic (preventative) medications (I've tried amitriptyline and propranolol, currently on 900 mg gabapentin a day)
Very gradually, I'm learning to hold my posture more consistently in a way that puts less pressure on my neck and doesn't tighten up my neck muscles, so I'm hopeful the symptoms will get better over time.