What Is Cervicogenic Headache?

Article Featured on Spine Health

Cervicogenic headache (CGH) occurs when pain is referred from a specific source in the neck up to the head. This pain is commonly a steady ache or dull feeling, but sometimes the pain intensity can worsen. CGH symptoms are usually side-locked, which means they occur on one side of the neck, head, and/or face.

CGH is a secondary headache that occurs because of a physical or neurologic condition that started first. CGH may be caused by trauma, such as fracture, dislocation, or whiplash injury, or an underlying medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or infection. While the pain source is located in the cervical spine, CGH can be difficult to diagnose because pain is not always felt in the neck. CGH symptoms can also mimic primary headaches, such as migraine and tension-type headache.

Cervicogenic Headache Pain

CGH usually starts as an intermittent pain and may progress to become a continuous pain. The common features of CGH include:

  • Pain originating at the back of the neck and radiating along the forehead, area around the eye, temple, and ear
  • Pain along the shoulder and arm on the same side
  • Reduced flexibility of the neck
  • Eye swelling and blurriness of vision may occur on the affected side in some cases
  • Pain almost always affects the same side of the neck and head, but in uncommon cases both sides may be affected

CGH pain is mainly triggered by abnormal movements or postures of the neck, pressing the back of the neck, or sudden movements from coughing or sneezing.

The long-term outlook for CGH depends on the underlying cause of the headache. CGH is generally chronic and may continue for months or years. However, once diagnosed the condition can be well managed with treatment.

How a Neck Problem Can Cause Cervicogenic Headache

In the upper cervical spine region, the trigeminocervical nucleus is an area of convergence of sensory nerve fibers originating from both the trigeminal nerve and the upper spinal nerves. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for pain sensation in the face including the top of the head, forehead, eye, and temple area. When a pain sensation from a cause of CGH is sensed by the upper spinal nerves, it gets transferred to the trigeminal nerve fibers in the trigeminocervical nucleus. This results in pain being felt in different regions of the head.

Several factors can transmit pain from the neck to the head, such as:

  • An injury to the atlanto-occipital joint (joint between the base of the skull and the first cervical vertebra)
  • Injury to a component of the cervical spine, such as a vertebra, facet joint, or disc
  • Cervical radiculopathy resulting from pinched nerve in the upper spinal region
  • Injury to neck muscles
  • Tumors in the cervical region

A common cause for CGH is whiplash injury resulting in pain shortly after the injury. CGH originating from whiplash may resolve in a few days, or may last for years.

When Is Cervicogenic Headache Serious?

In some cases, CGH may be caused by dangerous underlying conditions such as tumor, hemorrhage, fracture, or arteriovenous malformation (abnormal connection between arteries and veins) in the head or neck region. In such cases, one or more of the following symptoms may also be present:

  • A change in the type of headache pain, such as severe headache that is intolerable
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Headaches triggered by coughing or Valsalva maneuver (an attempt to expel air with the mouth shut and nostrils pinched tight)
  • Neck stiffness and swelling
  • Numbness in the arms

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if any of these symptoms are experienced.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

Neck Injuries Among Athletes Are Serious. Here's Why.

Neck Injuries Among Athletes Are Serious. Here’s Why.

By Neel Anand, M.D., Contributor | Article Featured on US News

WHEN IT COMES TO football-related head injuries, the headline-grabbers are usually about concussion. However, it’s not infrequent that a hard-enough hit to the head can result in both a concussion and a significant injury to the cervical spine, or neck. What’s more, it isn’t the professional players who are sustaining the majority of neck injuries related to football play. It’s mostly collegiate and youth athletes. When a hard enough hit or fall can result in a fracture or paralysis, it’s essential to look at why and how these injuries occur. Then, we must figure out ways to prevent them – or at least reduce the risk.

It might seem delicate on the outside, but your neck is one biological powerhouse on the inside. It must be flexible enough for you to turn your head from side to side, but strong enough to support the head, which weighs about 10 pounds. Neck stability occurs through the intricate arrangement of vertebrae in the cervical spine – the seven vertebrae in the neck. Between each vertebra is shock-absorbing cushions called disks, and surrounding the neck are muscles that provide strength and allow for flexibility.

Though designed for strength, the neck can be gravely injured. Hard football tackles and falls can result in severe neck injury – in much the same way and by the same force that happens with whiplash during a car accident. When the neck is hyperextended (flung too far backward) or hyper-flexed (thrown too far forward), ligament tears, sprains and strains can be the result. On the other hand, a tackle or fall that pushes the head too far to one side can result in a burner or stinger type of injury. Burners and stingers get their name from the electricity-like jolt of pain they can cause, which may also send the sensation down the arm. These injuries are the result of damage to the brachial plexus, a group of nerves that provides feeling to the arms. The incidence of burner or stinger injuries is quite high among collegiate football players, with up to 70% having sustained one.

The risk of neck injuries in football isn’t only high for collegiate or professional players. Sports-related emergency room visits for neck-related fractures number into the thousands each year, with football among the top five sports contributing to these numbers. And the age of incidence is highest in kids who are 15 years old or younger.

Any neck injury as the result of a hard tackle or fall should be evaluated a qualified medical professional, though most will resolve with minimal intervention. However, there are some signs of serious neck injury that warrant an emergency room visit. These include severe, uncontrollable pain; pain that shoots or radiates into the arms or legs; any tingling or numbness sensations; and trouble with bowel or bladder control.

Like any other injured body part, the neck needs time and care to heal properly. Even if a player is seemingly “fine” after the incident, neck injuries should be given at least a few days to recover. Of course, the best neck injury is the one that never happens. So taking proper safety precautions is always a must. If it’s tackle football, ensure that the equipment is functioning correctly. Shoulder pads and helmets should always be worn (in practice and during games) and must fit appropriately based on both the age and size of the player. Proper technique is also crucial. Remember: You should always see what you hit. Just because you wear a helmet does not mean it should be used as a weapon.

Serving as the director of spine trauma at a major metropolitan hospital for several years, I’m heartbroken to see kids come in with catastrophic but preventable neck injuries. For as much time and attention as coaches and team staff put into concussion detection and prevention, I firmly believe there should also be a significant amount dedicated to protection against serious neck injuries.

 


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

The 7 Faces of Neck Pain

The 7 Faces of Neck Pain

Article Featured on Harvard Health

If you’re bothered by neck pain, you have plenty of company. Doctors estimate that seven out of 10 people will be troubled by such pain at some point in their lives. But if you were to ask each of these people to describe their neck pain, you would probably get seven different stories.

Read more

Could Neck-Strengthening Prevent Some Concussions?

Could Neck-Strengthening Prevent Some Concussions?

BY ROBERT PREIDT | Article Featured on US News

Boosting athletes’ neck strength in the off season might reduce their concussion risk in sports such as football and soccer, researchers say.

This is among several recommendations from researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who are looking to prevent these serious head injuries in athletes.

“Our ability to detect sports-related concussions has greatly improved, but our ability to prevent concussions and decrease post-injury outcomes remains limited,” said study lead author Allison Brown. She is an assistant professor in the School of Health Professions.

“We have identified neck strength, size and posture as potential factors that reduce risk by lessening the magnitude of force upon impact. Thus, increasing neck strength and possibly size could substantially reduce risk or severity of injury or outcomes,” Brown said in a university news release.

For the study, her team reviewed previous research on the relationship between sports-related concussion risk and neck strength, size and posture.

A neck that is stronger, thicker or in a forward posture — ears ahead of rather than aligned with the shoulders — may reduce the amount of energy transferred to the brain during an impact, reducing the risk and severity of concussion, said study senior author Carrie Esopenko, also an assistant professor in the health professions school.

Esopenko noted that compared with men, women typically have less neck strength and a higher risk of concussion, more severe symptoms, and a longer recovery.

Their other recommendations for physical therapists and athletic trainers include doing a thorough cervical spine assessment as part of the pre-athletic participation exam, and screening for pain. Pre-existing neck pain has been associated with increased concussion risk in young athletes, the study authors said.

A concussion occurs when an impact to the head makes the brain move within the skull. It can cause nausea, dizziness, problems with thinking, concentration and mood, and other neurological changes.

The study was published online Jan. 15 in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

When Arthritis Causes Neck Pain

When Arthritis Causes Neck Pain – Treatment Options and Prevention Tips

By  | Featured on EverydayHealth

Two types of arthritis commonly lead to neck pain: cervical spondylosis and rheumatoid arthritis. With both types, it’s joint damage that causes pain and discomfort in your neck.

Neck Pain and Cervical Spondylosis

Neck or cervical spine pain becomes more common as you age, often because of age-related degeneration of the neck bones. This wear and tear is what causes cervical spondylosis, also known as osteoarthritis of the neck or cervical osteoarthritis, and osteoarthritis may be accompanied by the growth of bony spurs and problems with the ligaments and disks in the neck.

Cervical Spondylosis Symptoms

Symptoms of cervical spondylosis may include:

  • Neck stiffness and pain
  • Pain that may radiate into the arms
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms and hands
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs or feet that may lead to problems with balance
  • Neck popping or neck cracking, or grinding or clicking sounds in the neck
  • Muscle spasms in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping

Cervical Spondylosis Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose cervical spondylosis, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. You may also need to undergo imaging studies, such as X-rays or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), so that your doctor can view the vertebrae, disks, and ligaments of the neck and look for any abnormalities, such as bone spurs, that may be contributing to your symptoms.

Treatment options for cervical spondylosis include:

  • Limiting neck movement, which may mean wearing a cervical collar
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other pain medication to help relieve your pain and swelling
  • Physical therapy
  • Heat therapy
  • Ice therapy
  • Exercises to improve poor posture
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Neck exercise to strengthen and stretch the cervical spine
  • Neck steroid injections in some cases
  • In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the spinal cord from bone spurs or a herniated disk

Neck Pain and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another type of arthritis that can cause neck pain is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory disease that can damage the joints. While rheumatoid arthritis typically affects the joints of the fingers and wrists, it can also affect other joints, including the neck.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of inflammation may include:

  • Warm, tender, swollen joints
  • Joint pain and stiffness in the morning lasting more than 30 minutes
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis and Treatment

A rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis begins with a physical exam and discussion of your symptoms. Your doctor may also order laboratory tests, such as blood tests and X-rays, to get a better understanding of your condition.

RA affects each person differently, and treatment will depend on your symptoms and how severe they are. Common treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Medications to reduce inflammation and relieve pain
  • Medications to slow joint damage, such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic response modifiers
  • Rest when you need it
  • Chiropractic treatment to alleviate neck pain through adjustments to your neck’s vertebrae.
  • Splints to support swollen, painful joints
  • Surgery when necessary; this may involve joint replacement (depending on the joint involved), reconstruction of tendons, or removal of inflamed tissue.

Ways to Treat Neck Pain at Home

In addition to medical treatments, consider:

  • Exercise. When your disease isn’t active, get moving — just don’t overdo it. In moderation, it can reduce your pain, help with movement, make you feel less tired, and it’s just a good thing to do for overall health. Your local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation may offer water exercise and other kinds of classes specifically for people with arthritis.
  • Ice packs. The next time you need to reduce swelling and pain, go to your freezer and grab a bag of frozen peas or corn — these aids conform easily to the neck area.
  • Not smoking. If you smoke, find a way to stop. The chance of complications from RA increases if you smoke, as do your odds of developing osteoporosis.
  • Warm baths. Besides helping with sleep, a warm bath can soothe achy joints and relax muscle tension.
  • Herbal remedies. If you’re looking for natural relief, turmeric, the common kitchen spice, is known to be an anti-inflammatory and may reduce neck pain caused by inflammation. Boswellia is another natural pain reliever with anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Yoga exercise. This ancient practice, which involves stretches, poses, and meditation, is not only a great exercise, but it also relieves stress and neck pain by reducing tension.
  • Massage. Have your partner or a professional gently massage your neck where it hurts, for temporary relief.

Neck Pain: Related Conditions

Neck pain is common among those who are 50 or older. “But I have children who come into my office with neck pain,” says Robin Lustig, DC, CCSP, of New Jersey Total Health in Lodi, N.J.

Other common causes of neck pain include:

Pinched nerve. This occurs when too much pressure is placed on a nerve by surrounding tissue. The pain from a pinched nerve in your neck can radiate into your shoulders, arms, or back. When you have a pinched nerve, you may also feel numbness or tingling in the area.

Injury or trauma such as a car accident or a fall. Injury or trauma to the neck can have long-lasting effects and cause arthritis years later, Dr. Lustig says.

A stiff neck. This is when it’s painful or difficult to move your neck from side to side. “A stiff neck can be caused by sleeping on your stomach in a funny position for a long time or from a muscle that went into spasm,” Lustig says.

Cervical myelopathy. This condition occurs when the spinal cord channel in the back of your neck narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord, which can result in neck pain and numbness or weakness in your hands, arms, legs, and feet.

Shoulder arthritis. “People often develop shoulder arthritis where there is wear and tear or overuse,” Lustig says. The pain from shoulder arthritis can radiate into the neck.

Poor posture. If you sit hunched over your computer all day or hold the phone with your neck while you’re working at your computer, your neck can hurt at the end of the day.

Tumors. A tumor in the cervical region of the spine will cause neck pain and should be examined to determine the best course of treatment. As the tumor grows, it can cause pain as it compresses different nerves.

Meningitis. Neck pain and stiffness is a primary symptom of this infection, which can be life-threatening. If your neck pain and stiffness is accompanied by fever and vomiting, see your doctor immediately.

Lack of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in the way our bodies function. Many people lack magnesium in their diet. Researchers have linked a lack of magnesium to cramps, twitches, muscle tension, soreness, and back and neck pain.

New Research on Neck Pain

Arthritis cannot currently be cured, but researchers are working from many different angles to learn how this disease develops in order to find a cure.

Some of the new research on arthritis includes:

  • Focus on cells. Scientists are studying T-cells, a major player in immunity. They want to find out how inflammation starts so they can stop it.
  • Gene study. To find the genes responsible for rheumatoid arthritis, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Arthritis Foundation are supporting the North American Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium. At 10 research centers around the United States, scientists are gathering information and genetic samples from 1,000 families in which at least two siblings have the disease.
  • Other studies. Researchers are also looking at hormones, bacteria, and viruses in the hope of learning more about RA.
  • Clinical trials. As for research into cervical spondylosis, a recent look on the NIH clinical trials Web site turned up eight trials involving this disorder.

Neck Pain Prevention is Key

You can prevent some neck pain with these steps:

Learn stretching exercises. Consult a physical therapist if necessary. You should stretch every day especially before and after you exercise. If after exercising, your neck hurts, apply ice immediately.

Keep your back and neck supported. This is a must, especially sitting at your computer. If your computer is at eye level, it will keep you from having to look up and down and constantly change your neck position. Use a headset when talking on the telephone to avoid straining your neck.

Sleep with support. Use a firm mattress. If your neck is sore in the morning, you might want to buy a pillow that supports your neck as well.

Click it. Protect yourself from trauma by always using a seat belt when riding in a car.

Managing neck pain requires a consistent approach and carefully following the treatment plan outlined by your healthcare provider. You’re the one in charge of making sure you take the time to exercise, strengthen, and soothe muscles. At times you’ll feel challenged, but if you stay determined, you’ll have the best possible outcome.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.