Cervicogenic headache: a review of diagnostic and treatment strategies
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment
J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2005 Apr;105(4 Suppl 2):16S-22S.
David M Biondi
Cervicogenic headache is a syndrome characterized by chronic hemicranial pain that is referred to the head from either bony structures or soft tissues of the neck. The trigeminocervical nucleus is a region of the upper cervical spinal cord where sensory nerve fibers in the descending tract of the trigeminal nerve (trigeminal nucleus caudalis) are believed to interact with sensory fibers from the upper cervical roots. This functional convergence of upper cervical and trigeminal sensory pathways allows the bidirectional referral of painful sensations between the neck and trigeminal sensory receptive fields of the face and head. A functional convergence of sensorimotor fibers in the spinal accessory nerve (CN XI) and upper cervical nerve roots ultimately converge with the descending tract of the trigeminal nerve and might also be responsible for the referral of cervical pain to the head. Diagnostic criteria have been established for cervicogenic headache, but its presenting characteristics occasionally may be difficult to distinguish from primary headache disorders such as migraine, tension-type headache, or hemicrania continua. This article reviews the clinical presentation of cervicogenic headache, proposed diagnostic criteria, pathophysiologic mechanisms, and methods of diagnostic evaluation. Guidelines for developing a successful multidisciplinary pain management program using medication, physical therapy, osteopathic manipulative treatment, other nonpharmacologic modes of treatment, and anesthetic interventions are presented.