Cervicogenic headache … what the heck is that?

Cervicogenic headache … what the heck is that?


Cervicogenic headache … what the heck is that? Unfortunately, many people suffer with headaches.  Often those headaches can be debilitating.  In 2021a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 40% of the global population, or 3.1 billion people suffer regularly with headaches.  While there are many different types of headaches, not many people know about cervicogenic headaches.


What is a Cervicogenic Headache:


A cervicogenic headache  is a type of secondary headache that originates from tissues in the cervical spine (the neck region) and its related structures. Unlike primary headaches such as migraines or tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches are caused by underlying neck problems. These may include disorders of the cervical vertebrae, intervertebral discs, muscles, or nerves.


Cervicogenic Headache start with neck pain


Characteristics of Cervicogenic Headaches:


  • Pain Location: Typically starts at the top of the neck or back of the head and radiates to the front.  While not always, they appear more often on one side.
  • Trigger Points: Pain can be triggered or worsened by neck movements or sustained neck positions.  This can include sitting at a desk all day, looking at our phones or gaming.
  • Associated Symptoms: Other signs may include restricted neck movement, jaw pain, tension across the shoulders, and shoulder pain.


Causes of Cervicogenic Headaches:


  • Cervical Spine Disorders: Such as spinal misalignments or joint dysfunction. If the neck is out of alignment it can cause both neck pain and headaches.
  • Herniated discs or degenerative disc disease.
  • Arthritis:  With aches and muscle stiffness there can also be underlying joint dysfunction.  As a result we get more neck pain that may lead to cervicogenic headaches.
  • Neck Injuries: Including whiplash or other trauma.
  • Postural Issues: Poor posture can lead to muscle strain and tension in the neck.


Treatment of Cervicogenic Headaches:


Effective treatment often involves addressing the root cause of the neck issue. A randomized clinical control trail demonstrated that Chiropractic care can be particularly beneficial in managing cervicogenic headaches through:


  1. Spinal Adjustments: Correcting misalignments in the cervical spine.
  2. Posture Correction: Improving posture to alleviate neck strain.
  3. Muscle Therapy: Relaxing and stretching tight neck muscles.


Chiropractic adjustment for headache



By understanding and treating the underlying cervical spine issues, individuals can achieve significant relief from cervicogenic headaches. If you are having headaches in North Phoenix and this presentation sounds familiar, Desert Valley Chiropractic would like to help.


The Best Sleep Positions to Avoid Neck and Back Pain

The Best Sleep Positions to Avoid Neck and Back Pain

The Best Sleep Positions to Avoid Neck and Back Pain


Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for your overall health and well-being. However, the position in which you sleep can have a significant impact on your spinal health. At Desert Valley Chiropractic, we understand that proper alignment of the spine during sleep is essential for preventing pain and maintaining good health. Here are our top recommendations for the best sleeping positions to help you wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.

Sleeping on Your Back


Back sleeping is often considered one of the best sleep positions, it really is the gold standard for spinal health. This sleep position allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position, which means there’s no extra pressure on those areas. To enhance comfort and reduce lower back strain, consider placing a pillow under your knees to maintain the natural curve of your spine.

If you are exclusively a back sleeper choosing the right pillow can help avoid unnecessary neck pain.  You don’t want a thick pillow that pushes your chin down toward your chest, this will strain your neck causing neck pain and potentially headaches.  If you are a back sleeper you may want to consider a cervical pillow which can help maintain the natural curve in our necks.

Sleeping on Your Side


Side sleeping is another great example of the best sleep positions, especially for pregnant women and people suffering from chronic back pain. To get the most out of this position, make sure to:

– Use a firm pillow to keep your head and neck aligned with your spine.  You want your head and neck remain neutral which is to say you don’t want it to bend too far in either direction.

– Placing a pillow between your knees is crucial.  This can prevent your lower body from torquing (like wringing out a wet towel) which can pull your spine out of alignment.  A good option is to place a king or body pillow between your knees, because then you can hold or “spoon” the pillow with your arms so you don’t lose it when rolling over to the other side.  This is also helpful and keeping your knees and hips aligned which keeps your lower body from twisting too much.


Pro Tip – placing a pillow between your knees can also be a helpful way for people to transition away from stomach sleeping to side sleeping.  When you are on your side and you spoon the pillow you can fool your body into feeling like you’re sleeping on your stomach.




Back and Side Sleeping in Combination


It has been our experience over the last 20+ years that many patients will move from back to side sleeping through the night.  As noted above, both positions are good for our spinal health so there is nothing wrong with moving from one to the other.  In fact, this is the way I sleep, and I have found that it is important you choose the correct pillow to avoid unnecessary strain on the cervical spine.

Ideally you use a pillow that has a dip in the middle for when you are on your back but is also elevated on the sides so when you move from your back to your side you can maintain good alignment from your head to your neck.

sleep positions

Avoid Sleeping on Your Stomach


Sorry stomach sleepers, but there is no way to sugar coat this, stomach sleeping is bad. As far as the best sleep positions are concerned, this is the worse.  It is hard on both your neck and back. This position can force your neck to turn to one side, causing strain and discomfort. Additionally, your hips will sink into the mattress which is a common cause of morning back pain.

We hear all the time “but doc it’s the only way I can get comfortable enough to sleep” or “I have been a stomach sleeper all my life”.  Trust me, I know how comfortable stomach sleeping can be. While I just said that when I sleep, I move from my back to my side, I didn’t always do that.

Growing up and in my early teens I was a stomach sleeper, and on a waterbed no less.  As a result, when I was 13, I started to get lower back pain, so my mom took me to her chiropractor.  In addition to some great Activator treatment, I was also given some tips to transition away from a stomach sleeping.  It does not happen overnight, but it can be done and if you read the side sleeping section above you will get a helpful tip.

If you have tried everything and simply must sleep on your stomach please use a thin pillow under your head and another under your pelvis to minimize the strain to your spine.


Listen to Your Body


Your body will tell you if something is wrong, so if you wake up feeling sore or stiff, it might be time to evaluate your sleeping position, your pillows and or your mattress. Make sure your sleeping environment supports your spinal health.


Consult with a Chiropractor


Chiropractic care can be helpful with our spinal alignment so we can both feel well and move well.  If you’re experiencing discomfort despite making the adjustments in this article, it may be beneficial to consult with a chiropractor. At Desert Valley Chiropractic, we can provide personalized advice and treatments to help align your spine and improve your sleep quality.


Remember, the goal is to support the spine in a neutral alignment and avoid any positions that might cause strain or discomfort. Sweet dreams and healthy sleeping!

Is Your Commute a Pain in the Neck

Is Your Commute a Pain in the Neck

Is your commute a pain in the neck? Is At some point most of us have experienced upper back and neck pain while driving.  Perhaps you turned your head to the side to shoulder check and felt a sharp shooting pain, or just a “crick” in your neck.

This is a problem.

It’s even more of a problem when the neck pain causes you to recruit your upper body to shoulder check.  Or it can get worse and you just “hope for the best” and not shoulder check at all.   We have all seen other drivers do that one.

It’s important to know what causes your commute to be a pain in the neck and how to fix it before you cause an accident.


Don’t accept anything less than a full range of motion.

This is not an “eh…its good enough” moment, you need to be able to comfortably turn your head.  Your safety and the safety of others are at risk here.  As a Chiropractor its crucial to evaluate a patient’s range of motion with they have neck pain. How far can you turn your head to the left and then to the right.

A full range of motion should include the ability to turn your head so your chin is in line with your shoulder.  You should be able to do this without shrugging your shoulders or turning your body and you should not have pain of any kind.  You don’t have to go “full exorcist” but you should easily be able to bring your chin near your shoulder.  If you can’t it is a sure sign that there is a problem not just with the muscles, but also the bones in your neck.

The pain may be more than just your commute.

The pain in your neck while driving may be more than the length of your commute, or the frustration of driving in heavy traffic.  The likelihood is that there are other factors as well, and your commute is where the pain manifests.

Most people work at a desk all day with poor posture, and then double up on the poor posture on the commute back home.   At a red light look at the posture of the other drivers around you.  I am sure you’ll notice that their head is way forward, their shoulders are rounded forward, and they are probably slouched down in the seat.

This posture puts a tremendous amount of extra load on your neck, leading to muscle fatigue, soreness, misalignment of the bones in your neck, and finally pain.

One simple thing.

While this tip is not going to fix the root cause of this problem (misalignment if the bones in your neck), It can be a very helpful thought when it comes to better posture.  Try pushing or pointing the top of your sternum (breastbone) towards the sky.  This naturally helps you sit up straighter and pulls your neck and shoulders back.


It’s all about alignment.

As tempting as it might be to chalk up your neck pain to stress or needing a massage, the reality is that your commuting conundrum comes down to alignment.

Think about it this way.

Your entire central nervous system travels to every part of your body from your brain and your spinal cord. The majority of your peripheral nerves pass through one or more areas of your spine. When your spine is out of alignment, these nerves become cramped sending distress signals to your brain.  This can present in the form of pain, numbness, tingling, or even burning.

Over time, if the neck is not realigned, the muscles begin to compensate for weakness or pain creating even bigger problems than before. If you fix the alignment problem, you fix the nerve problem which, in turn, fixes the muscular problem.

Chiropractic care is the best way to realign your spine and restore your neck’s range of motion. The cervical vertebrae, the bones closest to the skull, are capable of moving in every direction. But if they are misaligned, their movement is impeded. By carefully and strategically realigning these bones as well as the rest of the spine, you will find your range of motion is restored and your pain is relieved at the source.

Stop relying on your mirrors and dumb luck to stay safe on your commute.

At Desert Valley Chiropractic we would like to help you stay safe out there!