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5 Forms of Headaches and How to Treat Them

headacheWhat Kind of Headache Do I Have?

Patients present to the office with multiple types of headaches. The overwhelming majority think that they are having migraines but a lot of the time that is not the case. We will look at different types of headaches, what causes them, what the typical symptoms are like and what you can do about them.

1- Cervicogenic Headaches:

  • Headaches that originate from the spine and base of the skull. They are usually the result of prior trauma and dysfunction of the joints, muscles and ligaments of the neck
  • Generally caused by specific movements of the neck or sustained postures
  • They are usually felt at the base of the skull, they will wrap up and around the head and you can feel them behind the eye
  • These respond very well to chiropractic adjustments, muscle work like massage or trigger point therapy and some physical therapy modalities
  • This is the most common headache that presents to our office

2- Cluster Headaches:

  • Headaches that are recurrent brief attacks of sudden severe one sided head pain that can occur for two weeks to three months
  • Could be the result of hormonal influences which can alter circadian rhythm
  • Will be felt on only one side and can be described as excrucitating, piercing, boring, deep, or penetrating but they do not usually throb. Commonly they last only a short time but can return anywhere from one to eight times per day
  • Typical treatments would involve chiropractic adjustments and muscle work but also the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to be helpful with these

3- Migraine Headaches:

  • There are two main types of migraine headaches, those with an aura (classic migraine) and those without (common migraine). Those without an aura make up the majority
  • Thought to be caused by some sort of trigger, vascular issues or nervous system issues
  • Triggers would include stress, hormonal changes, rapid blood sugar changes, certain foods or environmental allergies
  • Pain is usually moderate to severe and a throbbing pain and can last hours to days. Patients will often note nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound
  • Patients should keep a diet log to track food sensitivities, women should look for relation to menstrual cycles, receive chiropractic adjustments, muscle work in the area, stress management and possibly cold laser therapy if cause is vascular in nature. Some patients benefit greatly from acupuncture. Co-management with medical doctors is sometimes necessary

4- Tension Headaches:

  • Occasional headache that feels like the head is in a vice or a band around the head
  • Even pain all throughout the head. No throbbing, nausea or sensitivity to light or sound
  • They are mild to moderate headaches that are usually muscular in origin
  • Thought to be the result of general stress and strain and the muscles in the area
  • Respond well to massage and muscle work, chiropractic adjustments, stress reduction or ergonomic or workspace modification

5- Pathologic Headaches:

  • This is head pain with a potentially life threatening cause
  • The common causes of these types of headaches are infections (such as meningitis or encephalitis), brain tumor, aneurysms, blunt trauma or stroke
  • The big warning signs would be an rapid onset described as “the worst headache of my life”, an older patient who has never had headaches but just had them start, a headache due to a recent trauma, changes in brain function, known cancer, or vomiting without nausea (just to name a few)
  • These patients would be immediately referred out of the office to a medical practitioner