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Understanding The Types of Headaches: Migraine, Tension, and Cervicogenic Headaches

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Headaches are a common ailment experienced by millions of people worldwide. In fact, they are the second most common pain complaint second only to low back pain. If you've had a headache you know how debitiliating they can be.; making day to day tasks difficult if not impossible to enjoy. While there are various types of headaches, three of the most prevalent we see in the clinic are: migraine, tension, and cervicogenic headaches. In this blog, we will delve into each type, exploring their causes and symptoms and in further blogs discuss more in detail our treatment approach at Gate City Physic.

1. Migraine Headaches: Perhaps the most famous (or infamous), migraine headaches are a neurological disorder characterized by recurring episodes of moderate to severe throbbing or pulsating pain, usually on one side of the head. They often come with additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances known as auras. In addition, migraine sufferers report higher levels of neck pain than the average individual. To make matters worse, migraines can last for hours to days and significantly impact an individual's daily activities.

2. Tension Headaches: Tension headaches are the most common type of headache experienced by people. They are often described as a mild to moderate band-like pressure or tightness around the head. Tension headaches typically occur bilaterally (both sides of the head) and may be accompanied by muscle tenderness in the neck and shoulders. These headaches are commonly attributed to stress, prolonged posture, anxiety, or fatigue.

3. Cervicogenic Headaches: Cervicogenic headaches originate from disorders or dysfunction of the cervical spine (neck) and often result in referred pain to the head. These headaches are typically caused by structural issues such as cervical disc herniation, whiplash injuries, or osteoarthritis. The pain is usually unilateral, affecting one side of the head or face, and may be accompanied by neck pain and restricted neck movement.

Work with a Physical Therapist who specializes in Headaches aches

Treatment for headaches is a highly individualized and depends on underlying factors, however, our specialized physical therapy at Gate City Physio typically includes the following:

-Manual Therapy

-Movement Program

-Lifestyle modification


Get the help you need today!

Headaches can be disruptive and affect our overall well-being. Understanding the different types of headaches, such as migraines, tension headaches, and cervicogenic headaches, is essential for proper diagnosis and management. If you are experiencing headaches be sure to check out our next blog in this series where we will talk about three of our favorite exercises or reach out today to schedule a complimentary phone consultation with Dr. Hillman!


  • Rizzoli P, Mullally WJ. (2015). Headache. American Family Physician, 91(11), 716-724.

  • Ashina S, et al. (2019). The tension-type headache. Lancet, 394(10210), 936-948.

  • Sjaastad O, Fredriksen TA, Pfaffenrath V. (2008). Cervicogenic headache: Diagnostic criteria. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 48(6), 783-784.

  • Bogduk N. (2014). The anatomical basis for cervicogenic headache. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 37(6), 403-405.

Dr. Corey Hillman is a Physical Therapist and owner of Gate City Physio – a boutique physical therapy clinic in Downtown Greensboro. He specializes in helping individuals suffering from jaw pain, headaches and neck pain regain their freedom and get back to enjoying the little things in life.

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