Logo Medical Science Monitor

Call: +1.631.470.9640
Mon - Fri 10:00 am - 02:00 pm EST

Contact Us

Logo Medical Science Monitor Logo Medical Science Monitor Logo Medical Science Monitor

14 March 2023: Clinical Research  

Headache Characteristics in Chronic Neck Pain Patients with Loss of Cervical Lordosis: A Cross-Sectional Study Considering Cervicogenic Headache

Veysel Delen ORCID logo1ABCDEFG*, Server İlter ORCID logo2BCDEFG

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.939427

Med Sci Monit 2023; 29:e939427

0 Comments

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Loss of cervical lordosis and cervicogenic headache have similar tissue abnormalities, including weakness and atrophy in the neck muscles. Cervicogenic headache is mainly unilateral and is perceived in the occipito-temporo-frontal regions. However, it is not clear whether loss of cervical lordosis is a sign of headache with cervical origin. Herein, we aimed to assess and compare headache characteristics in patients with and without loss of cervical lordosis.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study conducted on chronic neck pain patients with (n=38; F/M: 28/10; mean age 33.34±7.73 yrs; range 18 to 45 yrs) and without loss of cervical lordosis (n=38; F/M: 29/9; mean age 33.13±6.41 years; range 20 to 45 years), between May 2019 and November 2019. The 2 groups were assessed and compared for headache characteristics such as frequency, severity, localization, lateralization, duration, and spread scores. Cervical lordosis was assessed on the lateral cervical radiographs by using posterior tangent technique measuring the C2-C7 total cervical spine angle.

RESULTS: The 2 groups were similar for individual features, including age, sex, employment status, and duration of neck pain (P>0.05). The duration of headache attack was longer in patients with loss of cervical lordosis (5.72±8.12) than in those with normal cervical lordosis (3.29±3.92) (P=0.009). However, there were no significant differences between the 2 groups for headache characteristics, including frequency, severity, localization, lateralization, and spread scores (P>0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with loss of cervical lordosis have longer duration of headache attack than those without. Loss of cervical lordosis may be a specific finding associated with longer cervicogenic headache attacks.

Keywords: Neck Pain, Lordosis, Myofascial Pain Syndromes, Headache Disorders, Pain Clinics, Humans, Adult, Post-Traumatic Headache, Cross-Sectional Studies, Headache, Cervical Vertebrae

Background

Loss of cervical lordosis leads to mechanical overload, structural degeneration, and reduced vertebral artery hemodynamics in the cervical region [1,2]. Although its etiology has not been fully elucidated, neck extensors’ weakeness or atrophy may be causative factors [3,4]. Some treatment options such as neck extensor exercises, cervical spinal manipulation, and extension traction have been found to be useful in correcting loss of cervical lordosis and alleviating clinical symptoms, including neck pain and dizziness [1,5,6].

It has been suggested that loss of cervical lordosis may be related to cervicogenic headache [7]. Really, it was shown that loss of cervical lordosis and cervicogenic headache have similar soft-tissue abnormalities, including weakness and atrophy in the neck muscles [3,4,8,9]. Also, neck-targeted therapies have been found to be useful in the treatment of both conditions [1,5,6,10–13]. However, the effectiveness of treatments for cervicogenic headache depend on the true etiopathogenesis, proper clinical approach, and definitive diagnosis [12–14].

Although cervicogenic headache shows heterogeneous clinical features [15], it is mainly unilateral and perceived in the occipito-temporo-frontal regions [16]. However, headache characteristics of patients with loss of cervical lordosis are not known, and it is not clear whether the clinical features of cervicogenic headache occur in the presence of loss of cervical lordosis. In addition, unilateral headache may arise from facial, cervical, or cranial structures, and due to clinical overlaps between headaches, cervical origin requires evidence [17,18]. Therefore, there are many challenges of definitive and differential diagnosis of headaches, and a more specific finding is required for cervical origin of headache [18]. In this respect, loss of cervical lordosis has been put forward as a diagnostic biomechanical biomarker for cervicogenic headache [7]. However, it is not known whether headache characteristics in the loss of cervical lordosis are compatible with cervicogenic headache.

Herein, we hypothesized that loss of cervical lordosis may be related to headache characteristics, and headache characteristics may be different in the presence of loss of cervical lordosis. Therefore, we aimed to assess and compare the headache characteristics in neck pain patients with and without loss of cervical lordosis.

Cosidering its similar features with cervicogenic headache [3,4,8,9], and given its negative effects on cervical structures and functions [1,2], it is important to explore headache characteristics for loss of cervical lordosis. If a difference in its headache characteristics can be revealed, loss of cervical lordosis may be accepted as a sign of headache with cervical origin. There is a need for a specific finding of cervicogenic headache [18], and determining headache characteristics of loss of cervical lordosis may facilitate diagnosis and treatment processes.

Materıal and Methods

ETHICS APPROVAL:

This was a cross-sectional study carried out at our Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, between May 2019 and November 2019. The Local Ethics Committee approved the study protocol (Decision No: HRÜ/19.05.32; Date: May 06, 2019), and written informed consent was obtained from each participant.

PARTICIPANTS:

A total of 76 patients with chronic neck pain (pain duration >3 months) who had a headache experience at least once within the last month included were in the study (n=76; 19 males, 57 females; mean age 33.24±7.05 years; range 18 to 45 years).

The study group consisted of chronic neck pain patients with loss of cervical lordosis (n=38; 10 males, 28 females; mean age 33.34±7.73 years; range 18 to 45 years). The comparison group consisted of age-, sex-, and body mass index-matched chronic neck pain patients with normal cervical lordosis (n=38; 9 males, 29 females; mean age 33.13±6.41 years; range 20 to 45 years).

Headache characteristics were determined and recorded in a structured interview. The patients were questioned by an experienced expert clinician (physician and physiatrist) about their headache characteristics such as frequency, severity, duration of attack, and localization, lateralization, and spread features including unilateral, occipital, temporal, frontal, and orbital. Headache intensity was evaluated using a validated visual analog scale (VAS). The patients selected their pain level on a horizontal line between 0 (no pain) and 10 cm (very severe pain) [19]. The 2 groups were analyzed and compared in terms of the headache characteristics.

EVALUATION OF CERVICAL LORDOSIS:

Standard cervical radiographs of the patients were taken to evaluate the cervical spine. To diagnose loss of cervical lordosis, the total cervical curvature was measured using posterior tangent technique, which refers to the angle between 2 lines drawn along the posterior surfaces of the C2 and C7 vertebrae [1,20]. We defined and classified the total cervical curvature as follows: lordotic (less than −4°) (Figure 1A), loss of cervical lordosis (+4° to −4°) (Figure 1B), and kyphotic (more than +4º) (Figure 1C) [1,20]. Harrison et al [21] have shown that the posterior tangent technique has better intra- and inter-observer reliability than the four-line Cobb methods.

EXCLUSION CRITERA:

Patients aged <18 or >45 years or who had the following medical conditions were excluded: acute neck pain (pain duration ≤3 months), cervical kyphosis (lordosis angle >+4º), cervical vertebral anomalies, sigmoid cervical spine, cardiovascular disorders such as hypertension, inflammatory rheumatic diseases, neck injury or surgery, iron-deficiency anemia, pregancy, lactation, and psychiatric illness.

Patients aged ≥18 or ≤45 years, female or male, who had the following medical conditions were included: chronic neck pain (pain duration >3 months), who had a headache experience at least once within the last month. Also, written informed consent was obtained for participation and for cervical radiographs. The exclusion and inclusion criteria were applied by an experienced expert clinician (physician and physiatrist) (V.D.).

STATISTICAL ANALYSES:

G*Power version 3.08 software (Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany) was used to evaluate the study power. The study power was calculated based on the sample size. For each group, a total of 38 patients were provided to achieve an effect size of 0.7, a power of 0.85, and a significance level of 0.05 [22].

All statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS 20.0 for Windows (Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.). Normal distribution of continuous variables was assessed using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov normality test. In the comparisons, the t test was used for normally distributed continuous variables, while the Mann-Whitney U test was used for variables with non-normal distribution. The bivariate Pearson correlation analysis was used to measure the level of correlation between variables. Categorical variables were evaluated by the Fisher’s exact test and are presented as numbers. Continuous data are presented as mean±SD (min.–max.). P<0.05 was considered as statistically significant.

Results

Figure 2 presents the flow diagram demonstrating the study progression. A total of 130 chronic neck pain patients who had a headache experience at least once within the last month were screened for eligibility. Out of the 109 patients who meet the eligibility criteria, 76 were included in the study (38 cases and 38 controls) (Figure 2).

Table 1 presents individual features of participants. In both groups, most patients were female (73.7–76.3%. The 2 groups were similar with respect to individual features such as age (P=0.898), sex (P=1.000), body mass index (P=0.864), employment status (P=0.819), and duration of neck pain (P=0.892). In terms of cervical lordosis angle, there was a significant difference between the 2 groups (P<0.001) (Table 1).

Figure 3 and Table 2 present headache characteristics of participants. There were no significant differences between the 2 groups in headache characteristics such as frequency (P=0.749), severity (P=0.778), and localization, lateralization, and spread features, including unilateral (P=0.644), occipital (P=1.000), temporal (P=0.435), frontal (P=0.812), and orbital (P=0.168) scores (Figure 3, Table 2). However, the duration of headache attacks was longer in patients with loss of cervical lordosis (mean 5.72±8.12) than in those with normal cervical lordosis (mean 3.29±3.92) (P=0.009) (Table 2).

No significant linear correlation was found between cervical lordosis angle and the headache characteristics, including frequency, severity, and attack duration scores (for all, P>0.05).

Dıscussıon

In this study, headache characteristics in chronic neck pain patients were assessed and compared according to the presence and absence of loss of cervical lordosis. The results showed that there was no a difference between patients with and without loss of cervical lordosis in terms of the headaches characteristics, including frequency, duration, severity, localization, lateralization, and spread scores. However, the duration of headache attack was longer in patients with loss of cervical lordosis.

The longer duration of headache attack in patients with loss of cervical lordosis may be associated with weakened neck extensors and decreased vertebral artery hemodinamics, which have been detected in patients with loss of cervical lordosis [2,3]. However, the correlation between cervical lordosis angle and headache attack duration was not statistically significant. For this reason and considering the finding that longer headache in patients with loss of cervical lordosis has been found, the results need to be confirmed by new studies. Previous studies have stated that cervicogenic headache is mainly unilateral and is perceived-spread in the occipital, temporal, frontal, and orbital regions [16,23]. We found that orbital pain frequency tended to increase in patients with loss of cervical lordosis but did not reach statistical significance. As a result, the 2 groups in our study were similar for headache regions.

It has been suggested that loss of cervical lordosis may be a diagnostic biomechanical biomarker for cervicogenic headache [7]. Indeed, both loss of cervical lordosis and cervicogenic headache have similar soft-tissue abnormalities, including weakness and atrophy in the neck muscles [3,4,8,9]. Moreover, loss of cervical lordosis is associated with structural and functional negative effects on the cervical region such as mechanical overload, degenerative changes, disc herniation, and reduced vertebral artery hemodynamics [1,2,24]. These suggest a potential of loss of cervical lordosis as a sign of headache with cervical origin. However, headache characteristics of patients with loss of cervical lordosis are not clear, and it is not known whether headache in patients with loss of cervical lordosis is compatible with cervicogenic headache. Therefore, it was important to explore headache characteristics for loss of cervical lordosis.

The data explained above suggest a logical suspicion for researching a possible association between loss of cervical lordosis and headaches characteristics. Although a positive association of headaches with neck pain and a high prevalence of neck pain in individuals with headache have been reported [25,26], to our knowledge, no known previous study has investigated headaches characteristics in patients with chronic neck pain, considering loss of cervical lordosis specifically. It was important to reveal a difference in headache characteristics, and this could have been a sign of headache with cervical origin for loss of cervical lordosis.

On the other hand, there are certain potential limitations to this study that should be discussed in terms of generalizability of the findings. The present study has the advantages and disadvantages of a cross-sectional design. Because this study was performed on patients with chronic neck pain and since we did not include a painless control group, a possible effect of chronic neck pain on headache characteristics cannot be ruled out. Considering that patients older than 45 years are often affected by degenerative changes, only patients below 45 years old were included in this study. Thus, a possible effect of age-related cervical osteoarthritis on headache has been eliminated. In addition, thanks to selection criteria used in the study design such as age (>18–<45 years), diagnosis angle for loss of cervical lordosis (+4° to −4°), and neck pain duration (chronic, >3 months), the study has a strong homogeneity. Due to lack of prior studies on the topic, we could not compare different studies. This limitation also shows a need for further research. Finally, this study is based on self-reported data used to evaluate headache characteristics experienced within the last month. Therefore, new studies with prospective design are required on the topic. Further research is needed to assess the frequency of loss of cervical lordosis in patients with cervicogenic headache and its effects on cervicogenic headache severity.

Conclusions

In conclusion, the duration of headache attack is longer in neck pain patients with loss of cervical lordosis than in those with normal cervical lordosis. However, it seems that loss of cervical lordosis, as a specific finding, is not related to headaches characteristics, including frequency, severity, localization, lateralization, and spread. Loss of cervical lordosis may be a specific finding relating with longer cervicogenic headache.

References

1. Alpayci M, İlter S, Isometric exercise for the cervical extensors can help restore physiological lordosis and reduce neck pain: A randomized controlled trial: Am J Phys Med Rehabil, 2017; 96(9); 621-26

2. Bulut MD, Alpayci M, Şenköy E, Decreased vertebral artery hemodynamics in patients with loss of cervical lordosis: Med Sci Monit, 2016; 22; 495-500

3. Alpayci M, Şenköy E, Delen V, Decreased neck muscle strength in patients with the loss of cervical lordosis: Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon), 2016; 33; 98-102

4. Yoon SY, Moon HI, Lee SC, Association between cervical lordotic curvature and cervical muscle cross-sectional area in patients with loss of cervical lordosis: Clin Anat, 2018; 31(5); 710-15

5. Shilton M, Branney J, de Vries BP, Does cervical lordosis change after spinal manipulation for non-specific neck pain? A prospective cohort study: Chiropr Man Therap, 2015; 23; 33

6. Moustafa MI, Diab AA, Harrison DE, The effect of normalizing the sagittal cervical configuration on dizziness, neck pain, and cervicocephalic kinesthetic sensibility: A 1-year randomized controlled study: Eur J Phys Rehabil Med, 2017; 53(1); 57-71

7. Fortner MO, Woodham TJ, Oakley PA: J Phys Ther Sci, 2022; 34(2); 167-71

8. Abaspour O, Akbari M, Rezasoltani A, Relationship between thickness of deep neck muscles synergy and painful side in patients with cervicogenic headache: Cranio, 2021; 39(6); 465-71

9. Uthaikhup S, Assapun J, Kothan S, Structural changes of the cervical muscles in elder women with cervicogenic headache: Musculoskelet Sci Pract, 2017; 29; 1-6

10. Park SK, Yang DJ, Kim JH, Effects of cranio-cervical flexion with transcranial direct current stimulation on muscle activity and neck functions in patients with cervicogenic headache: J Phys Ther Sci, 2019; 31(1); 24-28

11. Dunning JR, Butts R, Mourad F, Upper cervical and upper thoracic manipulation versus mobilization and exercise in patients with cervicogenic headache: A multi-center randomized clinical trial: BMC Musculoskelet Disord, 2016; 17; 64

12. Côté P, Yu H, Shearer HM, Non-pharmacological management of persistent headaches associated with neck pain: A clinical practice guideline from the Ontario protocol for traffic injury management (OPTIMa) collaboration: Eur J Pain, 2019; 23(6); 1051-70

13. Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Cuadrado ML, Physical therapy for headaches: Cephalalgia, 2016; 36(12); 1134-42

14. Castien R, De Hertogh W, A neuroscience perspective of physical treatment of headache and neck pain: Front Neurol, 2019; 10; 276

15. Avijgan M, Thomas LC, Osmotherly PG, A systematic review of the diagnostic criteria used to select participants in randomised controlled trials of interventions used to treat cervicogenic headache: Headache, 2020; 60(1); 15-27

16. Chua NH, Suijlekom HV, Wilder-Smith OH, Understanding cervicogenic headache: Anesth Pain Med, 2012; 2(1); 3-4

17. Prakash S, Rathore C, Side-locked headaches: an algorithm-based approach: J Headache Pain, 2016; 17(1); 95

18. Anarte E, Ferreira Carvalho G, Schwarz A, Can physical testing be used to distinguish between migraine and cervicogenic headache sufferers? A protocol for a systematic review: BMJ Open, 2019; 9; e031587

19. Price DD, McGrath PA, Rafii A, The validation of visual analogue scales as ratio scale measures for chronic and experimental pain: Pain, 1983; 17(1); 45-56

20. Kumagai G, Ono A, Numasawa T, Association between roentgenographic findings of the cervical spine and neck symptoms in a Japanese community population: J Orthop Sci, 2014; 19(3); 390-97

21. Harrison DE, Harrison DD, Cailliet R, Cobb method or Harrison posterior tangent method: Which to choose for lateral cervical radiographic analysis: Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 2000; 25(16); 2072-78

22. Faul F, Erdfelder E: GPOWER: A priori, post-hoc, and compromise power analyses for MS-DOS [Computer program], 2004, Bonn, FRG, Bonn University, Department of Psychology

23. van Suijlekom H, Van Zundert J, Narouze S, 6. Cervicogenic headache: Pain Pract, 2010; 10(2); 124-30

24. Gao K, Zhang J, Lai J, Correlation between cervical lordosis and cervical disc herniation in young patients with neck pain: Medicine (Baltimore), 2019; 98; e16545

25. McAviney J, Schulz D, Bock R, Determining the relationship between cervical lordosis and neck complaints: J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2005; 28(3); 187-93

26. Ashina S, Bendtsen L, Lyngberg AC, Prevalence of neck pain in migraine and tension-type headache: A population study: Cephalalgia, 2015; 35(3); 211-19

In Press

21 Sep 2023 : Clinical Research  

The Impact of Implementing the Vortex Approach on Airway Management Performance in Stressed Medical Student...

Med Sci Monit In Press; DOI: 10.12659/MSM.940372  

20 Sep 2023 : Clinical Research  

A Retrospective Study to Compare Pharyngeal Anatomical Changes Measured Before and After Treatment for Malo...

Med Sci Monit In Press; DOI: 10.12659/MSM.941749  

20 Sep 2023 : Database Analysis  

Comparative Finite Element Analysis of Endocrowns and Traditional Restorations for Endodontically Treated M...

Med Sci Monit In Press; DOI: 10.12659/MSM.941314  

19 Sep 2023 : Laboratory Research  

Comparative Evaluation of Dimensional (Vertical/Horizontal) and Occlusal Accuracy of Non-Working Antagonist...

Med Sci Monit In Press; DOI: 10.12659/MSM.941654  

Most Viewed Current Articles

13 Nov 2021 : Clinical Research  

Acceptance of COVID-19 Vaccination and Its Associated Factors Among Cancer Patients Attending the Oncology ...

DOI :10.12659/MSM.932788

Med Sci Monit 2021; 27:e932788

0:00

30 Dec 2021 : Clinical Research  

Retrospective Study of Outcomes and Hospitalization Rates of Patients in Italy with a Confirmed Diagnosis o...

DOI :10.12659/MSM.935379

Med Sci Monit 2021; 27:e935379

08 Mar 2022 : Review article  

A Review of the Potential Roles of Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Pharmacological Approaches for the Man...

DOI :10.12659/MSM.936292

Med Sci Monit 2022; 28:e936292

01 Jan 2022 : Editorial  

Editorial: Current Status of Oral Antiviral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Non-Hospitalized Pa...

DOI :10.12659/MSM.935952

Med Sci Monit 2022; 28:e935952

Your Privacy

We use cookies to ensure the functionality of our website, to personalize content and advertising, to provide social media features, and to analyze our traffic. If you allow us to do so, we also inform our social media, advertising and analysis partners about your use of our website, You can decise for yourself which categories you you want to deny or allow. Please note that based on your settings not all functionalities of the site are available. View our privacy policy.

Medical Science Monitor eISSN: 1643-3750
Medical Science Monitor eISSN: 1643-3750