Physical Therapy For Cervicogenic Migraines

Physical Therapy For Cervicogenic Migraines | Capitol Physical Therapy | Washington DC Physical Therapists

Do you experience intense, debilitating headaches that occur alongside symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity?

If so, you may be one of the approximately 39 million Americans who experience migraines.

One kind of migraine you may be experiencing is called a cervicogenic migraine.

However, a cervicogenic migraine is an incredibly intense type of migraine.

It is also a neurological condition that can cause a range of debilitating symptoms.

These symptoms can last anywhere from several hours to days.

If you or a loved one is dealing with cervicogenic migraines, we can help.

As a Washington DC physical therapy clinic, we offer a range of solutions for cervicogenic migraines.

Keep reading to learn more about cervicogenic migraines and how physical therapy for neurological conditions can help.

What Is A Cervicogenic Migraine?

A migraine is just one of many different types of headaches.

Unlike a typical migraine, which originates from the brain, a cervicogenic migraine originates in your cervical spine and neck.

Cervicogenic migraines typically cause a dull, non throbbing pain.

If you are experiencing a cervicogenic migraine, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Reduced range of motion in your neck
  • Pain on both sides of the back of your head that moves to your shoulders
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Issues with balance
  • Pain on one side of your face

Some may experience symptoms a few days before the migraine pain begins, also known as the “prodrome phase”.

Symptoms during the prodrome phase include:

Similarly, some individuals will experience symptoms after the migraine pain ceases, a period referred to as the “postdrome phase”.

The typical symptom during this phase is changes in mood, such as euphoria or apathy.

What Causes Cervicogenic Migraines?

Currently, a single, definite cause for migraines has not been identified.

Research points to abnormal brain activity that affects nerve signaling as well as chemicals and blood vessels as a potential cause.

Migraines often have a genetic component.

If one or both of your parents suffered from migraines, you have an increased likelihood of experiencing them as well.

Additionally, people assigned female at birth are more likely to experience migraines than people assigned male at birth.

Studies have found that a common cause of cervicogenic migraines is neck dysfunction that affects your upper cervical spine.

These headaches are also associated with musculoskeletal dysfunction and muscle imbalances.

For this reason, cervicogenic migraines can be triggered by sudden motions or continuous poor neck posture.

Other migraine triggers may include:

  • Bright lights
  • Severe heat and dehydration
  • Hormone changes and imbalances
  • Excess stress
  • Loud sounds
  • Excess physical activity
  • Skipping meals
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Certain medications, such as oral birth control
  • Smoking or alcohol consumption

How Can Physical Therapy Help For Cervicogenic Migraine Help | Capitol Physical Therapy | Washington DC Physical Therapists

How Can Physical Therapy Help For Cervicogenic Migraine Help?

The good news is that physical therapy can help you decrease pain, improve mobility, and manage future attacks if you suffer from cervicogenic migraines.

And, recent studies support this by finding that the most effective outcomes involve a combination of therapist driven manipulation, mobilization, and strengthening exercises.

Patients reported a reduction in pain and disability, along with improvements in mobility and body function.

Your physical therapist will assess your symptoms to help determine which therapy approaches might be right for you.

They have a wide arsenal of techniques at their disposal to help reduce your pain, naturally, like dry needling for pain relief or heat and cold therapy.

Some common physical therapy treatment approaches for cervicogenic migraines include the following:

1. Postural Adjustment

Some individuals with cervicogenic migraines have a pinched nerve on their cervical spine.

In these situations, a physical therapist can help correct your posture to help relieve migraine pain and other symptoms.

Some postural adjustment techniques include:

2. Exercise

Exercise is important to help improve your neck motion and decrease cervical nerve pressure.

Your physical therapist will first ensure you are properly warmed up.

This is to prepare your body for the work ahead.

Some of the exercises your physical therapist may have you do include:

  • Cervical retraction
  • Cervical flexion
  • Cervical side bending
  • Cervical rotation

3. Vestibular Therapy

If you are experiencing vertigo or dizziness due to cervicogenic migraine, vestibular physical therapy may help.

Vestibular therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy that requires you to perform specific neck, head, and gaze stabilization exercises to improve symptoms.

This is because many of the symptoms of a cervicogenic migraine overlap with ear infections and vestibular disorders.


Transcutaneous neuromuscular electrical stimulation, or TENS, is a type of electrical stimulation applied to your neck muscles.

TENS can help to decrease your pain and improve headache symptoms, which is especially helpful if you are experiencing chronic pain symptoms.

Your physical therapist may perform TENS treatments once or multiple times.

Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today

Have you been struggling with managing symptoms related to cervicogenic migraines?

Are you interested in learning more about how physical therapy services can help you?

At Capitol Physical Therapy, our expert physical therapists are trained to help relieve cervicogenic migraine symptoms in order to return to your everyday activities.

Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today.

Capitol Physical Therapy
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005


9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772


Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC