Non-Invasive PRP Procedures for Cervicogenic Headaches
If you experience frequent headaches that are mostly one-sided (without switching), seem to hit at the base of your head or your neck, and worsen with neck movement, it may not be your average stress-induced headache or migraine. These are symptoms of a cervicogenic headache, which results from an injury in the cervical spine. Read below to learn more about how to spot a cervicogenic headache and a non-surgical treatment option that can address the underlying cervical spine issue for these headaches.
What’s Different About Cervicogenic Headaches?
Wait, all headaches aren’t the same sort of thing, just ranging in intensity? Not exactly; there exist a number of reasons for pain or pressure on the head as well as a couple different classifications of headache. One type of headache, called a cervicogenic headache, is a sensation of pain that originates from the cervical spine but is felt in the head (1). It may seem surprising for pain to “travel,” but the numerous nerve endings that sense pain in the connection between the cervical spine and the occipital lobe of the brain allow for it (1).
A cervicogenic headache is somewhat difficult to interpret – it is not just a headache that has neck pain along with it – it is specifically a problem with a part of the cervical spine that causes chronic headaches, such as a tear in the spinal cord (2). Someone suffering from a cervicogenic headache, for example, would experience greater pain when turning their neck (2).
Incidence of Cervicogenic Headaches
About 2.5-4.1% of the general population experiences cervicogenic headaches. But, about 15-20% of people who report frequent headaches are actually suffering from cervicogenic headache pain (2). Considering some people may brush the phenomenon off as just a regular headache and not tell a doctor about it, there is likely an even greater number of people suffering from chronic cervicogenic headaches.
The Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches Include:
- Unilateral (one-sided) pain, usually occurring in occipital region of the brain (about the top of the neck) (2)
- Non-throbbing pain in the head that usually starts in the neck (2)
- Pain frequently begins after moving the neck (2)
- Reduced range of motion in the neck when experiencing pain (3)
Traditional Treatments Most Often Include
When a patient complains of a cervicogenic headache, the first traditional method of treatment is physical therapy (3). Physical therapists prescribe patients with certain manipulative maneuvers that help to stimulate neural inhibitory systems in the spinal cord, which can help block a headache at the source – the cervical spine (3). Patients have to be careful, however, not to move in incorrect ways that can worsen the headaches (3). Another treatment option is steroid injections into cervical nerves, which can very temporarily reduce pain when the headaches occur (3). Surgery is only used as a last option (3).
PRP for Cervicogenic Headaches
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a treatment in which a patient’s blood is extracted and spun in a centrifuge, so that all the parts of the blood can separate (4). The platelets in the blood contain growth factors that play an important role in the body’s healing process (4). During a Regenexx PRP treatment, a Regenexx physician uses very precise centrifuge techniques to remove impurities and create an optimal super concentrated solution of platelet rich plasma (5). The physician then injects the PRP sample directly into the patient’s spine region that is originating the headache pain. In the case of cervicogenic headaches, PRP may be an effective treatment option because it treats the underlying cause of the headaches (cervical spinal issues), rather than just attempting to reduce pain, like steroids (4).
Clinical Study on PRP for Cervicogenic Headaches
The atlantoaxial joint (C1/2 joint) connects the first and second vertebrae in the spine, C1 and C2 (6). It is common for this joint to degenerate with age or to be affected by a traumatic event in which a sharp turn of the neck or whiplash is involved (like a car accident) (6). Injury to the C1/2 joint is a possible contender for causing cervicogenic headaches (6).
A study published in 2017 examined treatment injections (including PRP) to the C1/2 joint performed from 2005 to 2015 at the Mayo Pain Medicine Clinic in Rochester, MN to determine the safety and efficacy of the treatment (6). Many people had been concerned about the possible adverse effects of injections, since they could be common, but the results showed that 18.5% of injections were associated with an adverse effect, and that all adverse effects, procedural or post-procedural, resolved with no long term persistent symptoms (6).
Another smaller study examined 32 C1/2 injections and found that 81.2% of the patients experienced a decrease in pain greater than 50% post-injection (6).
Botox Injections May be An Option
Regenexx also offers botox injections for chronic migraines (7). Botox is used for someone experiencing chronic migraines lasting four or more hours 15+ days out of the calendar month (6). The botox treatment includes a repeating treatment of injections from a few small needles (7). Patients can experience up to eight or nine fewer migraine days per month from repeating botox treatment (7).
Regenexx Tracks the Outcomes of Cervical Spine Treatments
Regenexx has treated and tracked over 3,230 patients for cervical spine problems (8). Just one month after Regenexx-SCP injection treatment, on average patients report a 53% overall improvement of their cervical spine function, and the condition continues to improve (8).
Find out if you’re a Regenexx candidate for Cervicogenic headache treatments with PRP–Tap the “TALK TO AN EXPERT” BUTTON below.