Just about everyone gets a headache now and then, but if you deal with headaches on a chronic basis (or even just once or twice per week), then it is important to determine the type of headaches you are getting. Why? Because the best way to find relief can be different depending on the underlying cause of your headaches. Let’s look at 7 common headache types and then we’ll discuss the best ways to care for them.
#1 Chronic Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are the most common types of headache. For episodic tension headaches, most people just take an over-the-counter pain reliever. However, since tension headaches are often due to tension in the neck, finding a good way to destress may provide some natural relief. If tension headaches become chronic, you should seek further care. We’ll offer one possible solution at the end of the article.
#2 Migraine Headaches
The headaches associated with migraines are really just one symptom of the migraine. In fact, a person doesn’t even have to get a headache to be experiencing migraines. Since migraines are a neurological condition, it is important to seek out the underlying cause of the problem rather than simply treating symptoms. Interestingly, about 75% of migraine patients report neck pain either before or during the attack. This has led some to discover an underlying issue in the upper cervical region of the spine.
#3 Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches are brief, yet incredibly painful headaches that occur in clusters. These cluster periods may last a few weeks or even a few months. While remission periods can last for years, during a cluster severe pain is felt on one side of the head and there may be nasal discharge or a red and tearing eye on the same side as the pain. Traditional treatment includes triptans, channel blockers, steroids, and nerve pain medications. Some doctors also use oxygen therapy for a more natural approach.
#4 Exertion Headaches
These are headaches that are either caused or worsened by physical or emotional exertion. They usually fall under the other one of the other categories of headaches. For example, if extreme emotional stress is leading to exertion headaches, they could be either tension headaches or migraines. Physical exertion is more likely to be related to migraines. Migraines in particular will get worse with exertion ranging from cardiovascular activity and weight training to sexual activity. You may need to get extra rest or seek a positive way to deal with emotional distress depending on the headache triggers.
#5 Post-Concussion Headaches
Headaches are a common symptom of post-concussion syndrome. They may also begin to occur following a whiplash-type injury or some other form of trauma. If you are experiencing headaches following a head or neck injury, it is important to make certain there was no underlying damaged that could have been missed in the initial care (assuming you went to the doctor at all since many people don’t for concussions). An upper cervical chiropractor would be in the best position to determine if the top bones of your spine have moved out of position. This can lead to headaches and many of the other symptoms that follow trauma.
#6 Medication Overuse Headaches
Occasional headaches often progress into chronic headaches. Why is this the case? One reason that has been posited is the fact that most headache medications can actually cause rebound (medication overuse) headaches if they are used too often. Thus, the very pills a person takes to control the symptoms is perpetuating the condition. It is important to read the label and never take headache medication more often than recommended. If you think you may be experiencing rebound headaches, the best way to find out it to stop taking headache medication for a week or two. If the headaches become less frequent, then at least some of them were being caused by the medication.
#7 Secondary Headaches
This basically means that the headache is being caused by another condition that has been determined. With that in mind, everything from trauma-induced headaches to sinus headaches to the headache you get during a head cold would all be considered secondary headaches. Since the underlying cause is known you may be able to take care of it by correcting that issue. For example, headaches related to allergies can be handled by trying avoiding things you are allergic to. At other times, you may need to wait for the underlying issue to run its course such as when it is related to a head cold.
A Better Way to Deal with Many Headache Types
Many of the headache types noted above can be the result of a problem in the top two bones of the neck, the atlas and axis. Since these bones protect the brainstem, they have the ability to affect how it functions should they become misaligned. Also, the cervical vertebrae facilitate blood flow to the head, so a misalignment may affect proper blood flow and lead to headaches. These are just two of the ways that upper cervical misalignments can result in headaches. What can be done to correct this underlying problem?
Upper cervical chiropractors specialize in detecting and fixing misalignments of the top bones of the neck. We use diagnostic imaging to pinpoint the misalignment precisely and then gentle adjustments to provide long-lasting corrections. For many, the result has been fewer headaches. To learn more, contact an upper cervical practitioner near you to schedule a consultation.