Headaches are one of our most common ailments, with almost 80% of people reporting headaches in a recent survey. There are many different types of headache with different causes and treatments, though, so let’s talk a little about head pain.
There is a lot of confusion around migraine headaches, and the term is often used as a catch-all for severe head pain. Migraines are a specific type of headache that are sometimes accompanied by strange visual disturbances before the attack, and last for a certain amount of time, when the sufferer often must avoid light and loud sounds. These start coming on in childhood or early adulthood. Medications can be helpful for migraines, and sometimes environmental triggers, like foods or chemicals, can be identified that can reduce their occurrence.
A true migraine originates inside the skull, possibly from changes in blood vessels or in brain chemicals. For this reason, no physical methods, like massage or chiropractic, are effective for migraines. However, at times, tension headaches can come at the same time as a migraine, possibly as a result of the stress associated with the headache. If your migraine medication works only partially, consider chiropractic as an option for the rest of the pain.
Sometimes, migraine triggers in food or the environment can be identified. If those are eliminated, you can reduce or eliminate the attacks. An elimination diet removes likely triggers and adds them back one by one. If the headache returns after the addition of a trigger food, that could be one of the culprits.
Muscle tightness, usually in the neck, causes tension-type headaches. This makes pain that wraps around the head like a band. This is the most common variety, and, thankfully, can often be helped with an adjustment. The muscles that raise your eyebrows wrap over the top of your head to your upper neck. Tightness in that area of the neck pulls on this muscle explaining why headaches from the neck often affect the forehead. The nerves that serve the back of the head also come through these neck muscles, called suboccipital muscles, and can also be a source of pain.
Treatments for tension headache
Manipulation of the tight joints in the neck that are causing the muscles to contract incorrectly, can usually stop a tension headache quickly, and prevent them from coming back. A professional neck massage and learning some home stretches for your neck can also be an option. One of the best ways to reduce upper neck pain and headaches is to fix your posture.
In Connecticut, the drastic changes in seasons and strong plant allergens in the air can cause sinus infections. When the sinuses get clogged, headaches can result. These headaches are often felt in the cheeks or forehead and are often accompanied by runny nose or feeling somewhat ill.
Sinus headache treatment focuses on draining the sinuses to remove the cause of the pain and pressure. If an infection is present, you will likely need antibiotics. Sometimes, a blockage inside the nose can prevent the sinuses from draining. Surgery may be needed in this case. Chiropractors can sometimes help with sinus headaches. Manual therapy over the sinuses can help them to drain. This can relieve some of the pounding pain associated with this ailment.
Caffeine or other drugs can cause headaches if you overuse them and then stop abruptly. If you are drinking a lot of coffee, and then can’t get a cup the next morning, your headache may be a result of your brain craving its addiction. While not dangerous, it may be a sign that you are becoming too dependent on coffee or soda!
There are also more rare headache types like Cluster (occasional severe pain located in one eye) or hormonal headaches (they arrive at a predictable time around a woman’s menstrual cycle).
When to seek immediate care
- Severe, sudden onset headaches, often described as a thunderclap
- Headache after a head injury
- A headache accompanied by fever, stiff neck or strange neurological symptoms