Cervicogenic headache is a type of headache that often starts from the base of the skull (atlanto-occipital joint and upper cervical joint)  and spreads to the back and sides of the head.  Patient usually feel the pain on one side of the head, but it may spread to the shoulders and arm.


Below are some exercises for quick relief of cervicogenic headache:

  1. Upper trapezius stretch

Sit in neutral position and place 1 hand behind your back.  Place your opposite hand above your head to bring your opposite ear towards your opposite shoulder (i.e. bring left ear to left shoulder) until a gentle stretch is felt on your shoulder.

Hold for 15 seconds and repeat for 5 times

2.  Suboccipital muscles self-massage

Locate the suboccipital muscles, which are just above your neck and right below the skull.  You may try to massage it with very gentle pressure using your fingers or a tennis ball.

 3.  Chin tuck exercise

Sit upright and look straight ahead. Place 1 finger on your chin.  Without moving your finger, attempt to pull your chin and head backwards until you feel a stretch on the back of your neck and base of your head. 

Hold for 5 seconds before releasing your chin back towards your finger. Repeat this exercise for 10 times.

4.  Scapular squeeze

Start with your shoulders relaxed.  Imagine there is a towel between your shoulder blades (scapular), try to bring your shoulder blade together to squeeze the towel.

Hold for 10 seconds before relaxing.  Repeat for 10 times.

5.  Prayer stretch

Kneel in front on a bench or any elevated platform and place both elbow on top of it.  Slowly lower your head and upper body below your elbows until you feel a stretch on your upper back.

Hold for 15 seconds and repeat for 5 times.

Prepared by:

Cornelia Kueh Shu Wen

Your Physio Connaught branch

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