Mobilization and Manipulation of the Cervical Spine in Patients with Cervicogenic Headache
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, November 08, 2016 12:00 AM

It has been estimated that 4.1% of the population may experience cervicogenic headache (CEH).  CEH is one of the more common types of headache and may account for 0.4–15% of the headache population and up to 15–20% of all chronic and recurrent headaches.  Cervicogenic headache was originally described as a unique disorder in 1983 and differentiated from other forms of headaches, such as migraine, that may present with some common symptoms.  The International Headache Society (IHS) issued its initial International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) in 1988.  The current ICHD III beta version classifies CEH as a secondary headache arising from musculoskeletal disorders in the cervical spine and is frequently accompanied by neck pain.

 Cervical mobilization and manipulation are frequently used to treat patients diagnosed with CEH; however, there is conflicting evidence on the efficacy of these manual therapy techniques. The purpose of this review is to investigate the effects of cervical mobilization and manipulation on pain intensity and headache frequency, compared to traditional physical therapy interventions in patients diagnosed with CEH. A total of 66 relevant studies were originally identified through a review of the literature, and the 25 most suitable articles were fully evaluated via a careful review of the text.

Ultimately, 10 studies met the inclusion criteria.  Seven of the 10 studies had statistically significant findings that subjects who received mobilization or manipulation interventions experienced improved outcomes or reported fewer symptoms than control subjects.

These results suggest that mobilization or manipulation of the cervical spine may be beneficial for individuals who suffer from cervicogenic headache (CEH), although heterogeneity of the studies makes it difficult to generalize the findings.