Having a headache is very common, in fact around 50% of adults suffer from significant headaches more than once per month.

However, this doesn’t make it normal and if your headache is triggered by your neck (cervicogenic) then effective treatment with an experienced physiotherapist is available.

Cervicogenic headache symptoms

If your headache is caused primarily by your neck you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Neck pain which builds into a headache.
  • Headache is affected by posture or specific physical activities
  • Headache that increases with neck movement
  • A restriction in the movement in your neck

The location or pattern of pain may be variable but it’s common to experience pain at the base of your skull which travels up and over your head, pain in your forehead or temples or behind your eyes.

Cervicogenic headaches are often on one side of your head but can spread to both sides or alternate from one side to the other. Some people will also experience some dizziness, changes in vision, nausea and ringing in ears

Self help, treatment and exercises for cervicogenic headaches

Heat pack – placing a hot water bottle or wheat bag round your neck and shoulders will help to relax muscle tension.

Massage ball neck release – sellotape two tennis balls together and lie on your back with the balls positioned at the base of your skull. Use a towel to stop them from moving around and gentle rest the weight of your head on the balls so they apply pressure to any painful spots at the base of your skull:

Using tennis ball to release pressure at the base of the skull to relieve headache

Chest stretch – stand in a doorframe and place your forearms on the frame, just below shoulder height. Lean into the doorway to stretch your chest muscles. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.

Stretch for shoulders

Shoulder shrugs – Face a wall and place the side of your hands on the wall (starting in the W position). Slide your hands up the wall (ending in the Y position). Shrug your shoulders up to your ears and lower them again. Repeat 10 times slowlyshoulder exercise for people with headaches

Posture – if you have a desk-based job check that your work station is set optimally for you and set a timer to remind you to get up and move around regularly throughout the day. Keep your neck gently on the move in all directions, little and often.



If your headaches started recently or there has been a significant change in your usual headache symptoms, please consult your GP before starting any treatment programme.

And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions,

The Physiofit Team