Got Headaches? The PT Cure Explored

headaches caused by neck posture

Headaches can come from a variety of sources – eyestrain, stress, allergies, caffeine or alcohol withdrawal and sleep disorders – but they can also be caused by the neck (cervicogenic headaches). While many people may turn to a bottle of Ibuprofen for headache relief, when your headache is cervicogenic in nature, the medicine alone doesn’t correct the cause of the problem, but rather mitigates the symptoms. If your headaches are stemming from the neck there is often a way to eliminate the cause through physical therapy.


In neck-related (cervicogenic) headaches, the most common cause is posture. Poor postural habits over time, either during work, leisure or sleep, may result in the soft tissues of the neck and shoulders becoming shortened, weakened, overstretched, or overworked. A physical therapist works with clients to correct these postural dysfunctions, and many of these types of headaches are successfully treated – without recurrence or significantly reduced in frequency.


According to the International Headache Society, the main symptoms of cervicogenic headaches are:

  • Pain that is localized to the neck and back of the head (occipital region)  and may project to the forehead, eye area (orbital region), temples, and ears;
  • Pain is brought on or aggravated by specific neck movements or sustained neck postures; or
  • At least one of the following:
    • Resistance to or limitation of passive neck movements.
    • Changes in neck muscle contour, texture, tone, or response to    active and passive stretching and contraction.
    • Abnormal tenderness of neck muscles.

If you are suffering from headaches, consider a PT evaluation to see if physical therapy can help cure your headaches.

Want to learn more? Check out this presentation on headaches from our Spring Speaker Series 2012: