What is a Headache?
Generally defined as a continuous pain in the head. The medical term ranges from cervical or neck pain to general headache as a diagnosis. Headaches can be hormonal and for example occur with a women’s cycle or they can be trauma related such as post concussive syndrome. They can occur due to neck, back or jaw pain or be due to a hereditary condition.
What is the Most Common Type of Headaches?
Headaches fall into two general categories, tension or migraine. The most common are tension headaches that come from tightness in the shoulders and neck. These headaches can come from prolonged sitting at a desk or poor posture. The tension headache starts from the base of the skull with pain above the eyes or even pain in the eyes. Some patients will have nausea and sensitivity to light leading to a misdiagnosis of a migraine. This type of headache is easily relieved by getting adjusted and by exercising to improve posture and decrease muscle tension. Regular adjustments can reduce dramatically decrease the incidence of tension headaches.
What are some of the Less Common Headaches?
Cluster headaches and migraines are less common and have varying pathological causes. Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Although much about the cause of migraines isn’t understood, genetics and environmental factors seem to both play a role. A man that has never had a migraine in adolescence and then gets one as an adult is a red flag for more serious problems and should bring to his health provider’s attention. Women more commonly have migraines, usually first occurring between the ages of 12 to 40 and declining after that.
Tension Headaches or Migraine?
There are some common ways to tell if you have a tension headache or a migraine:
- Constant, dull pain, usually mild to moderate
- Not incapacitating
- Pain is often accompanied by muscle tightness in the shoulders and neck often on both sides of the head
- May last an hour, a week, or anywhere in between
- The pain is often described as a band of pain around the head, pressure behind one or both eyes “vise like pressure”
- Some relief from over the counter medications or caffeinated beverages.
- Visual signs prior to headache
- Familial history of migraines
- Throbbing, intense pain, generally moderate to severe and often disabling
- Usually one-sided, though the pain can move from side to side, and sometimes affects both sides
- Pain is often near the eye of the affected side
- May last hours, days, or even weeks
- Often accompanied by visual disturbances and/or extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and odors
- No relief with over-the-counter remedies
When should a Headache Lead me to call my doctor?
Some headaches can be a warning of something more serious. If you have any of the following symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
- An intense, severe headache that comes on quickly, without warning, especially if you are normally headache-free.
- Sudden, severe headache if you suffer from kidney problems, heart disease or high blood pressure.
- A headache following a head injury, especially if the headache includes feelings of nausea, dizziness, or blurred vision.
- A headache accompanied by seizures.
- A headache accompanied by memory loss, confusion, loss of balance, slurred speech or vision, pain in the neck, or numbness in arms or legs.
What can we do for Headaches in our Clinic?
Since headaches can be due to a specific incident of trauma or due to repetitive strain such as sitting hunched at your computer, we can use our extensive knowledge of the musculoskeletal system to reduce mm tension and joint misalignment which are common in the two scenarios. We also do work with hormonal fluctuations that occur in both men and women to help them regulate their cycles and decrease cyclical headaches. In some cases we have even found that food sensitivities are the cause of a lot of headaches and we do test for this in our office if this seems to be related to your condition. Even hereditary migraine sufferers will get relief through manual medicine, even if every headache isn’t magically gone.