Headache Symptoms – How to Know What Kind of Headache You Have

Differentiating symptoms from headache types

Headache symptoms are closely related to different types of headaches. What is a headache? The short answer is that a headache is a condition that causes a person to experience pain in his or her head. That having been said, there are many types of headaches, and each kind has different symptoms that can help to identify it.

Let’s take a closer look at six types of headaches and the symptoms that accompany them.

6 Types of Headaches and the Headache Symptoms That Accompany Them

#1 Sinus Headache

Sinus headaches are most often associated with a sinus infection, but you don’t necessarily have to have an infection to experience this type of headache. The most common sinus headache symptoms include head pain, pain in the temples, and pain below the eyes. If this is accompanied by discolored mucus and fever, an infection most likely exists. However, keep in mind that migraines can cause congestion, so don’t assume it is a sinus headache just because you have had to blow your nose a lot.

#2 Tension Headache

This is the most common form of headache, and the headache itself is usually the only symptom. What distinguishes a tension headache? The pain is typically mild to moderate – not enough to put a person out of commission. There may also be tightness in the neck and shoulders since the headache is related to this tension. Finally, the pain is often described as being as though you are wearing a headband that is gradually being tightened.

#3 Migraine Headache

In this case, the headache is just one symptom of a more significant neurological issue – migraines. Other common symptoms of migraines include sensory sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, and neck pain. Since not all migraines present with a headache, this isn’t technically a headache type, but since 85% or more migraine patients report a moderate to severe pulsating or throbbing headache, it made our list. Also, don’t be misled by the idea that migraine pain is only on one side. About a third of migraines hurt all around the head, much like a tension headache but with other accompanying symptoms.

#4 Cluster Headache

Cluster headache symptoms include severe head pain on just one side of the head that repeats in clusters. While these debilitating headaches don’t usually last long, knowing that a number of them will happen over the course of the next days or weeks can be miserable. The eye on the side of the head that hurts often waters. Cluster headaches are the only type of headache that is more common for men than women.

#5 Chronic Headaches

A person with chronic headaches may be experiencing any of the types of headaches on our list. The distinguishing factor is that the headaches occur 15 or more days out of every 30 day period. For some, headaches become an everyday occurrence. Sadly, chronic headaches can sometimes result from what many consider headache treatment – which leads us to our next headache type.

#6 Rebound Headaches

Rebound headaches are also called medication overuse headaches. Unfortunately, many of the medications that are taken as headache treatment are only intended for occasional use. Most people think of over-the-counter headache medications as relatively safe and may not even notice on the label where it says that the product is not for daily or long-term use. By taking prescription or over-the-counter pain pills more than they should, a person can end up with rebound headaches.

According to some researchers, this may be the number one cause of chronic headache conditions. The only way to know how many of a person’s headaches are being caused by the medication is to stop taking it long enough to see how many fewer headaches a person gets. This has led many people to seek out natural treatment for headaches. Is there any way to find natural headache relief?

Natural Treatment for Headache Symptoms

Regardless of your headache symptoms there is HOPE. Rebound headaches of course should be addressed by decreasing medication usage. But chronic headaches, cluster headaches, migraine headaches, tension headaches and sinus headaches have all been connected with misalignments in the upper neck leading to neurological changes in the body. All of these headaches have been associated with a type of headache called a cervicogenic headache a.k.a. a headache associated with the neck.

If you're someone who has been dealing with chronic headaches, including migraines, tension headaches, and cervical spine instability, you're not alone. These conditions can be incredibly debilitating, and finding effective treatments can be a challenging journey. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of cervicogenic headaches and explore treatments that focus on neck stability, potentially providing a path to relief and recovery.

Understanding Cervicogenic Headaches

Pressure in the ears and head

Different Types of Headaches

Headaches can come in various forms, and distinguishing between them is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment. Many individuals experience a combination of migraines, tension headaches, and cervicogenic headaches simultaneously. Cervicogenic headaches, in particular, originate in the neck and affect one side of the head. These headaches are often triggered by sudden or strained neck movements and reduced neck motion.

The Common Confusion

Cervicogenic headaches can sometimes be confused with other primary headache syndromes, adding to the complexity of diagnosis. However, what sets these patients apart is the understanding that their headaches are linked to cervical instability. Whether it's a migraine, tension headache, or cervicogenic headache, they all share a common root in the neck.

Diagnosis and Management

Identifying Cervicogenic Headaches

Diagnosing cervicogenic headaches can be challenging, as they often overlap with other types of headaches. However, several signs may point towards cervicogenic headaches:

  • Frequent neck pain
  • Self-manipulation or neck cracking habits
  • Muscle spasms in the neck
  • Positive response to neck pressure relief

If you relate to these symptoms, there's a high likelihood that you are suffering from cervicogenic headaches.

The Role of Ligament Damage

One critical aspect of cervicogenic headaches is cervical ligament damage. When these ligaments become weakened or damaged, they can lead to excessive movement of cervical vertebrae, causing headaches. This aspect often goes unnoticed in traditional medical approaches.

Treatment Options For Headache Symptoms

Addressing Cervical Instability

To effectively treat cervicogenic headaches, it's crucial to address cervical instability caused by ligament damage. Conventional approaches like medications and stress management may provide temporary relief but don't tackle the root cause. Here are some approaches to headache symptoms that focus on cervical spine ligament damage:

  • Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care: Chiropractors have found that neck instability contributes to headaches. Their treatments aim to manage symptoms effectively.
  • Physical Therapy: Specific exercises and therapies can help improve neck stability and alleviate headaches.
  • Prolotherapy: This treatment involves injections of dextrose to strengthen and stabilize damaged ligaments.
  • Traction: This technique can help relieve pressure on the neck and reduce headaches.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can cervicogenic headaches be mistaken for other types of headaches?

Yes, cervicogenic headaches often share headache symptoms with migraines and tension headaches, leading to misdiagnosis.

Q2: Are there non-invasive treatments for cervicogenic headaches?

Yes, treatments like upper cervical chiropractic care, physical therapy, and neck exercises can provide relief without invasive procedures.

Q3: How can I differentiate between cervicogenic headaches and other headaches?

Look for signs like neck pain, muscle spasms, and a positive response to neck manipulation. If these resonate with you, you may have cervicogenic headaches.

In conclusion, cervicogenic headaches can be complex and challenging, but understanding their connection to cervical instability is a crucial step towards effective treatment. If you've been struggling with chronic headaches and other remedies haven't worked, exploring these holistic approaches may offer you hope and relief.

To learn more about how your headache symptoms may respond to upper cervical chiropractic schedule a consultation with an upper cervical specialist today.

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

Find an Upper Cervical Specialist In Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

Featured Articles


Montel Williams
Montel Williams

TV show host Montel Williams describes how specific chiropractic care has helped his body.

NBC's The Doctors

The TV show "The Doctors" showcased Upper Cervical Care.

CBS News/Migraine Relief

CBS News highlighted the alleviation of Migraines and Headaches.

The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.