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Man with Vestibular Migraines

As a Headache Clinician with a background in physiotherapy, I’ve encountered numerous patients seeking relief from the throbbing discomfort that accompanies migraines and cervicogenic headaches (CGH). Operating within the Sydney Headache and Migraine Clinic, it has become evident that distinguishing between these two headache types isn’t always straightforward. Let’s explore the intricacies and similarities between migraines and CGH, shedding light on why migraines often get misdiagnosed as CGH.


Unravelling Migraine and Cervicogenic Headache

Symptoms Migraine CGH
Pounding Sensation 81 20
Nausea 39 8
Vomiting 13 5
Photophobia 68 19
Phonophobia 79 28
Mean Intensity of Pain 4.2/5 3.8/5

(Sjaastad & Bakketeig, 2008)


Similarities Between Migraine and CGH:

Location of Pain: Both migraines and CGH can cause unilateral head pain, often radiating to the forehead or temple region.

Sensory Sensitivities: Photophobia (sensitivity to light) and phonophobia (sensitivity to sound) are common features of both migraine and CGH.


Why Migraines Get Misdiagnosed as CGH:

Despite their differences, migraines and CGH share several overlapping symptoms, leading to misdiagnosis:

Pounding Sensation: While migraines are often associated with a pounding sensation, CGH can also present with similar head pain, leading clinicians to mistake migraines for CGH.

Nausea and Vomiting: Although more prevalent in migraines, nausea and vomiting can occasionally occur in CGH, further complicating the diagnostic process.

Photophobia and Phonophobia: Sensory sensitivities, while more pronounced in migraines, can also be present in CGH, making it challenging to differentiate between the two conditions based solely on symptoms.


Navigating the Diagnostic Maze:

Given the diagnostic challenges posed by the similarities between migraines and CGH, a comprehensive evaluation is essential. Clinicians must consider not only the presenting symptoms but also the patient’s medical history, response to treatment, and any additional diagnostic tests that may be necessary.



As headache clinicians, our goal is to provide accurate diagnoses and effective treatment strategies to alleviate the burden of headache disorders. By recognising the nuances and similarities between migraines and CGH, we can improve diagnostic accuracy and ensure that patients receive the most appropriate care for their specific condition.

At the Sydney Headache and Migraine Clinic, we remain dedicated to advancing headache care through evidence-based practices and personalised treatment approaches. If you’re experiencing headaches and seeking relief, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for comprehensive evaluation and expert management. Give us a call on 1800 43 23 22 or make a booking.


Written by:

Marinus Du Preez Sydney Headache and Migraine Clinic
Marinus Du Preez
Headache Clinician
Sydney Headache and Migraine Clinic



Sjaastad, O., & Bakketeig, L. S. (2008). Prevalence of cervicogenic headache: Vågå study of headache epidemiology. Acta neurologica Scandinavica117(3), 173–180.