Headaches are one of the most common ailments people deal with. The WHO reports that nearly everyone has occasional headaches and up to 5% of the population has daily headaches. There are many different causes of head pain and different treatments for each, so it is important to get a proper diagnosis to guide your treatment.
Types of Headaches
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 are usually helpful for migraines, and sometimes environmental triggers, like foods or chemicals, can be identified that can reduce their occurrence.
Muscle tightness, usually in the upper neck, causes tension-type headaches. This type of head pain feels like it wraps around the head like a band. Tension headaches are the most common variety, and, thankfully, can often be helped with a chiropractic 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 how a problem in the neck can 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.
Near our office in Norwalk, CT, the drastic changes in seasons and strong plant allergens in the air can cause sinus infections. When the sinuses get clogged and irritated, pain in the head and face can result. These headaches are often felt in the cheeks or forehead and are often accompanied by a runny nose or feeling somewhat ill.
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, the throbbing in your head 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 Medical Attention
- Severe, sudden onset head pain, often described as a thunderclap
- Headache after a head injury
- A headache accompanied by fever, stiff neck or strange neurological symptoms
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 migraine. 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.
Treatment for Tension Headaches
Manipulation of the misaligned 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.
Read more about misalignment in the spine causing pain.
Sinus Headache Treatment
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. You may need surgery in this case. Chiropractors can sometimes help with sinus pain. Manual therapy over the sinuses can help them to drain. This can relieve some of the pounding pain associated with this ailment.
Make an Appointment
Dr French can help figure out which type of headache you have, and come up with a plan to make you feel better. Contact us with questions or click below to schedule an appointment at our Norwalk, CT office.