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Cervical migraine is evidence that the pain that the patient locates within the head may have its source in a completely different part of the body. Cervical headache - as this is the term used today to describe cervical migraine - occurs, as you might guess, in connection with some abnormalities in the neck. So what could be the causes of cervical migraine and how can ailments be used to distinguish this problem from migraine headaches?

Cervical migraineis included in the group of secondary headaches, i.e. those that can actually be located within the head, although their source is diseases of structures other than the head.

The problem is sometimes called a migraine because it sometimes has symptoms similar to those of migraine headaches. In fact, however, it is a separate entity caused by various dysfunctions of structures located within the neck - for this reason, it is sometimes referred to as cervical headache.

In fact, cervical migraine is not a specific disease entity, and it is sometimes treated as a symptomatic syndrome that can occur in the course of many different diseases.

Typically the problem is encountered in people in 3-4. decade of life, women predominate among those suffering from cervical migraine. On the other hand, the statistics on the incidence of this disorder are very different - it is estimated that less than 1% to even almost 20% of people from the general population may struggle with it.

Cervical migraine: causes

Dysfunction of various structures within the neck - muscles, tendons, bone elements - may result in the patient developing a cervical headache.

The cause of cervical migraine may therefore be osteoarthritis, as well as the prolapse of the nucleus pulposus of one of the intervertebral discs located within the cervical spine. Other problems that can lead to this type of headache are also:

  • injuries (and of a different nature - cervical migraines are especially favored by "whip" injuries, i.e. those resulting from a traffic accident, where there is a sudden alternating bending and straightening of the neck; various falls or other injuries as a resultthere is a strain or damage to the structures within the neck)
  • compression of nerve fibers caused by adopting an incorrect posture (people who work in a sitting position are particularly at risk of developing cervical migraine - unconscious slouching with the chin forward, may cause overloading of the neck elements and ultimately lead to the described type of headache)

Cervical migraine: symptoms

Although the causes of cervical migraine are abnormalities in the neck, patients usually locate the pain they experience in the head region. In fact, their pain ailments originate in the neck area, and the feeling of pain in the head area is related to its radiation.

Pain in cervical headache is usually moderate, one-sided, and patients usually report feeling it in the fronto-temporal and orbital area. The nature of the ailments is inconsistent and the pain may vary during separate attacks of cervical migraine.

It happens that certain factors increase the pain in patients - coughing or sneezing can be mentioned as examples.

In the course of the problem, however, ailments other than headache may appear - possible symptoms of cervical migraine are also:

  • feeling of stiffness in the neck area
  • pain in other parts of the body (e.g. arm or shoulder)
  • ailments resembling a migraine aura (such as visual disturbances or hypersensitivity to various stimuli)

Cervical migraine: diagnosis

In the diagnosis of cervical migraine, it is mainly important to collect the patient's medical history and conduct a physical examination.

In the case of the former, it is about obtaining information on the nature of the pain - the fact that the headache is accompanied by pain in the parts of the body located in the neck area may suggest that the patient suffers from cervical headache.

Later a physical examination is carried out. During it, the doctor may, for example, press on various points within the patient's neck - this serves to search for the so-called trigger points, the irritation of which provokes the occurrence of a headache.

In addition, the patient may be asked to perform various neck movements - the occurrence of a cervical migraine while adopting a non-physiological body posture may confirm the diagnosis of this disorder.

When it comes to suspecting cervical migraine, patients are usually prescribed various tests, including imaging (such as an X-ray of the spine). Conducting them is for searchingcauses of cervical migraine, such as degenerative changes located in the structures of the cervical spine.

Cervical migraine: treatment

The headache that occurs in the course of cervical migraine can be relieved with the use of painkillers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

The truth is, however, that the treatment of cervical migraine with painkillers is rather avoided - taking these drugs, yes, may result in pain relief, although this does not eliminate the underlying problem.

Other treatments are usually preferred, such as nerve blocks, the dysfunction of which leads to the occurrence of cervical migraine (e.g., greater occipital nerve with bupivacaine), or cutting certain spinal nerve roots.

In a situation where cervical migraine occurs due to compression of the cervical nerve fibers (e.g. by a prolapsed nucleus pulposus or a neuroma that exists in their vicinity), it may be advisable to perform surgical decompression of such nerves.

Patients struggling with cervical migraine are also recommended various treatments in the field of physical therapy. By relaxing overstretched and strained muscles and other structures in the neck, it often leads to a reduction in the frequency of cervical migraine attacks.

Cervical migraine: prevention

Certain problems that may result in cervical migraine cannot be completely prevented - we are talking here about degenerative changes in the spine. However, we definitely have an influence on other risk factors of this unit.

When trying to prevent cervical migraine, first of all, you should pay attention to maintaining the correct body posture - both at home and while working or sleeping.

Hunching or sleeping with your head propped on a pillow that is too high is not he althy for the body - taking care of posture is really important, because it reduces the risk of cervical migraine, but also other types of pain resulting from improper body posture.

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