Headaches can occur anywhere in the head, scalp, neck, or even face. They may occur all over the head or just on one side. They can happen infrequently or every day. They may cause sharp pain, or the pain may be dull. Headaches can present themselves in many different ways and for many different reasons. But one thing is certain – a headache causes pain for a reason, and pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong.
Many people think headaches are just a normal part of life and have resigned themselves to living with them, but this does not have to be the case. Headaches and migraines can be treated and you can live pain-free.
ARE YOUR HEADACHES CAUSE FOR CONCERN?
Sometimes, headaches are minor inconveniences and go away with food, water, or rest, but chances are if you’re reading this page, your headaches are affecting your life more severely. You may have a recurring headache or migraine problem if:
- You suffer from throbbing, unrelenting headaches.
- The headaches cause you to vomit or feel nauseous.
- You experience sensitivity to light and sounds due to your headaches.
- Your headaches occur with increasing frequency.
- Your headaches are not responding to self-care.
- Your headaches are interfering with your daily life or causing you worry.
TYPES OF HEADACHES
There are many different types of headaches. Understanding which type of headache you have can be crucial to getting the right treatment. This list covers the most common, recurring types of headaches:
- Tension Headaches. Tension headaches can be chronic or episodic and cause tightness and pain from the top of the head and temples down the neck.
- Chronic Headaches. Chronic headaches can appear daily for weeks or even months. The pain is similar to that of tension headaches, causing a feeling of tightness around the head and neck. It has been described as having your head in a vise. The pain is steady and occurs on both sides of the head. The headache can even cause sore scalps, due to the constant muscle contraction.
- Cluster Headaches. These headaches occur on one side or the other, usually around or behind the eye. The pain is often described as sharp, deep, throbbing, severe, and develops rapidly. Cluster headaches last anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. It’s not unusual for cluster headaches to come and go several times within the same day or to occur at the same times every day. Cluster headaches also may appear daily for weeks at a time and then suddenly one day, disappear, only to reappear again a few months down the road. Associated symptoms include: nasal congestion, running nose, tearing and/or redness in the affected eye, and agitation.
- Rebound Headaches. Rebound headaches keep coming back. Ironically, they often result from overuse of pain medication. It’s a vicious cycle. The patient takes pain medication for a headache but the headache returns, so they take more pain medication. Eventually, the headache may occur because the patient did not take any pain medication. These are sometimes called medication overuse headaches. Anyone who regularly uses pain medication more than 3 days a week is at risk for rebound headaches.
- Sinus Headaches. Sinus headaches cause pain in the cheekbones, forehead, nose, and even upper teeth. They commonly occur in conjunction with other sinus problems like discharge or blockage. The pain may increase or decrease with movement as pressure shifts within the sinus cavities, particularly when lying down or bending forward. They can be associated with sinus infections, but you do not necessarily have to have a sinus infection to have a sinus headache. Sinus headaches are common in people with allergies.
- Migraines. Migraines are a severe and ill-understood kind of headache that affect both sides of the head, the other senses, and sometimes even the arms and hands. Migraines are often accompanied by auras—visual or other sensory phenomena.
COMMON HEADACHE TRIGGERS
Headaches can be triggered by many things: emotions, physical conditions, food, the weather, illness, and injuries. Here are some of the most common triggers:
- Stress. Tense shoulders, back, neck, and jaw muscles can all cause muscle contraction that causes a headache. This is the most common cause of tension headaches.
- Emotional Conditions. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, and constant worry may cause headaches.
- Head Injuries. Concussions, a bump to the head, a bruise, or cut can cause heads to ache. Injuries need not be recent to cause headaches. Old sports injuries, work injuries, or auto accidents can cause headaches to crop up even years later.
- Posture Problems and Spinal Abnormalities. Poor posture or spinal abnormalities put strain on the head and neck muscles and cause headaches.
- Illness. Headaches are common with the cold, flu, fevers, and many other illnesses.
- Hormones. Women tend to have headaches most often during their reproductive years as hormone levels fluctuate throughout the month. Headache is a common PMS symptom.
- Food. Sensitivity to certain foods can cause headaches, as can low blood sugar. Preservatives and MSG are common triggers. Lack of food or dehydration can also cause headaches.
- Weather. Changes in the weather, excess heat or cold, and dehydration can all play a factor in headaches.
- Exertion. Exercise and sex can cause short-term headaches.
- Environmental Conditions. External stimuli like lights, sounds, and smells can all cause headaches.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR HEADACHES
If your headaches occur more than three times a month or are bothersome to the point of impacting your daily life, it’s time to seek treatment.
The conventional approach to headache and migraine treatment is to mask the symptoms. This is done through the use of pain medication (OTC and prescription) or anti-nausea medications. Unfortunately, this only treats the symptoms. This approach does nothing to identify and treat the root cause of headache or migraine. Without treatment of the underlying cause of the pain, the symptoms will return. Other methods of treatment include:
- Chiropractic. Chiropractic can be a very effective, long-term solution for headaches. By manipulating the head, neck and spine, chiropractors can alleviate pressure or misalignments that may be causing the headache. Chiropractic is a completely non-invasive, drug-free way to treat and manage headaches and can be effective at eliminating them altogether.
- Massage. Massage is a great way to relieve tightened muscles or muscles that have been damaged in an accident or through injury. Over time, the muscles will relax and headaches can improve.
- Exercise. Stress and the tense muscles associated with it can be relieved with exercise. Stretching and strengthening back and neck muscles can help keep them in a more neutral, supported position, which relieves pressure that may cause headaches. Something as simple as going for a walk or practicing deep breathing exercises can reduce stress levels and headache pain.
- Rest and Relaxation. Relaxation exercises may help headaches that are due to stress or psychological conditions like depression or anxiety. Getting enough sleep will help reduce symptoms too.
- Nutrition Counseling. If certain foods or your diet are causing headaches, nutrition counseling can help. You’ll learn what foods to avoid, how to stay hydrated, and if there are any foods or supplements that can ease your headache symptoms.
The headache treatment you pursue depends greatly on the type of headache with which you have been diagnosed. You may be asked to keep a headache diary in which you will record when headaches occur, what you had eaten or drunk within the 24 hours of the attack, the hours of sleep you obtained, anything you were doing before the attack, how long the pain lasted, and if you did anything that helped it recede. The diary will be used to help you identify triggers or patterns of behavior that may be causing your headache so a treatment plan can be developed.
HELP IS AVAILABLE
You do not have to suffer through headaches on your own. Help is available at Pinnacle Chiropractic and Spinal Rehab Center. Dr. Aaron Casselman, DC has treated hundreds of patients for headache pain of all types. All patients begin with a comprehensive initial consultation and full spinal examination. From there, Dr. Casselman can develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. You’ll receive a full report with Dr. Casselman’s treatment recommendations, which may include physiotherapy, chiropractic adjustments, nutritional counseling, spinal decompression, class 4 laser therapy and relaxation techniques, or any combination of the above.
If self-care isn’t helping or you are tired of masking your headache symptoms, contact Pinnacle Chiropractic and Spinal Rehab Center in Highlands Ranch, CO today for more information on how we can help you with your headaches or migraines or to request an appointment.