When a bad headache strikes, it’s easy to say you have a migraine. However, the truth is that there are many types and causes of head pain. Therefore, it’s important to understand which type you’re really experiencing so that you can manage your symptoms effectively.
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This type of headache actually originates in the neck. When you break down the word cervicogenic, that’s exactly what it means: cervico = pertaining to the neck and genic = generated from. The upper neck has many tissue types that can generate pain and cause headache. These include the joints between bones, discs, soft tissues, nerve roots, and vertebral arteries. Cervicogenic headaches are, more often than not, accompanied by neck pain. Neck range of motion may be reduced, and the headache made worse by neck movement.
Cluster headaches can cause severe, one-sided pain in the head, around the eye, at your temple, and towards the back of the head. They usually present with irritated eyes, a runny nose, and drooping of the eyelid. Appropriately named, cluster headaches occur with a frequency between 8 episodes daily to every other day. Headache clusters can come in cycles and are separated by periods of remission.
A migraine is a headache disorder that causes severe, pulsating pain usually on one side of the head. Migraine episodes are commonly associated with nausea, vomiting, and heightened sensitivity to sound, light, and smell. The headache phase can last anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days. The common migraine presents without any visual disturbances known as an aura.
For approximately 25% of migraine sufferers, their episodes include the aura phase. An aura is a combination of visual and sensory changes that can range from numbness and tingling in the extremities to seeing zigzags, spots, or wavy lines. For those who experience an aura, it will typically last between 10 and 30 minutes and acts as a warning sign that the headache phase is imminent.
A person suffering from migraines 15 or more days per month has chronic migraine. There might be quite a variety of symptoms – some days a person may experience a more severe migraine episode and other days the pain might be more tolerable.
Migraines disproportionately affect women, and some women are prone to experience migraines either in the few days before or after the menstrual cycle begins.
The most common headache type around the world, a tension-type headache is sometimes referred to as a “hat band” headache because it feels as if you’re wearing a hat that fits too tightly and it’s squeezing your head. Tension headaches can also cause neck and shoulder pain. Though tension headaches can drag on for days, the pain is usually moderate compared with the pain of a migraine.
An unfortunate byproduct of having chronic migraines or headaches and using pain-relieving medications more than 10 days per month is the risk of developing medication overuse headaches. This can occur with both prescription and over-the-counter medications that are used to treat migraine and headache pain.
Migraines and headaches occur for a variety of reasons. As you’ve read above, they can have neurological, vascular, muscular, and hormonal influences, to name a few. There is one system of the body that governs the function of all the others, and that’s the central nervous system (CNS). When problems arise in the CNS, they can be the underlying factor in the development of migraines and headaches.
The upper neck, oftentimes referred to as the upper cervical spine, houses a critical part of the CNS as it relates to migraines and headaches. The upper cervical spine has two unique vertebrae, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) that are different from the rest of the spine because they have some different functions.
If the upper neck has shifted out of alignment due to an accident or injury (whiplash, concussion, sports injury, work-related injury), or from wear and tear that naturally occurs over time, it can be the root cause that is triggering your migraine or headache episodes.
Correcting this area is the focus of upper cervical chiropractors. Using a thorough analysis, they measure and adjust the extent of the upper cervical misalignment for each patient. This high degree of personalized care allows for upper cervical care to be precise, extremely gentle, and yield long-lasting results. Many migraine and headache patients under care report a reduction in the severity and/or frequency of their episodes and a return to a better overall quality of life. To learn more about how upper cervical chiropractic can get you back on track, locate a provider in your community and schedule a consultation.
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.