7 Cervicogenic Headaches Symptoms After A Car Accident

Cervicogenic headaches, as the name implies, are headaches that originate in cervical spine. Researchers Stupar & Kims (2007) in their study have defined cervicogenic headache as secondary headaches that most commonly occur due to acceleration/deceleration injury and presents along with other symptoms of whiplash injury, which can happen after a car accident.  Cervicogenic headache often occur after auto accidents and even low impact accidents at speed as low as 5 MPH are enough to cause soft tissue injuries, damage to spinal nerves, discs and joints in the neck, later triggering referred pain in the head region.  Symptoms of cervicogenic headache include:

  • Pain in head on the same side(injured side), that starts from the neck and radiates to the front of head. Pain is mild to moderate in intensity and non-throbbing in nature
  • Pain at the base of skull and neck aggravated by neck movements and awkward positioning of head
  • Pain is usually in only one side of the body and there is worsening of pain if external pressure is exerted over cervical spine or occiput( top of head) on the injured side.
  • Neck movements are restricted
  • Pain in shoulder and arm on the same side(injured side)
  • Damage to trigeminal nerve, which controls the facial muscles, may cause pain increased sensitivity in face and above the eye.
  • Occasionally there might be photophobia( sensitivity to light), phonophobia(sensitivity to sounds), and swelling around mouth and on face, dizziness, and difficulty in swallowing, blurred vision in eye on the affected side.

Research study conducted in Ullevaal University Hospital, Oslo, Norway(2007) analysed the natural course of cervicogenic headache after whiplash injury. In the first phase patients presenting with a headache within few weeks of a car accident were followed up to 1 year.  Results showed that 35 % of patients still had headache after 1 year after whiplash injury. In the 2nd phase of study, these patients were followed up for another 7 years and it was found that 3% still suffered from cervicogenic pain.  The research findings highlight the importance of timely diagnosis and treatment of cervicogenic headache, because if left untreated it can become a chronic cause of headaches.

A proper diagnosis of Cervicogenic headaches is crucial as it allows treating the root cause of head ache, however, these are often difficult to diagnose as their symptoms frequently mimic tension or migraine head ache.

There is proven care and management of cervicogenic headache in chiropractic. Your chiropractor will first thoroughly examine you to ascertain the root cause of head ache and may also take assistance of other diagnostic tools for diagnosis, followed by a customized management plan according to the extent of injury.