Unlike migraines and other headaches that stem from issues in the brain, cervicogenic headaches originate in the cervical spine region — in the bones, discs, or soft tissues of the neck — and can be quite different from a typical headache. Most people who experience migraines or frequent headaches can identify a trigger. With cervicogenic headaches, there are no triggers as they are caused by physical problems. Cervicogenic headaches are not well understood and are therefore difficult to diagnose and treat.
Experts believe cervicogenic headaches are secondary pain, meaning that an issue originating somewhere other than the head causes them. This is commonly called "referred pain." Though understanding about cervicogenic headaches is limited, it is likely that the pain originates near where the skull meets the top of the neck, the cervical vertebrae. The headache can also include pain generated in the ligaments, joints, nerves, or blood vessels.
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