Many common types of headaches are associated with muscle tension and or joint restrictions. Common headaches treated are tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches, and migraines.
Headaches are frustrating to deal with and often challenging to find the correct treatment. When experiencing a headache, sufferers may additionally feel neck pain, loss of focus, or even nausea. There are many causes and types of headaches. Three types of headaches treated by chiropractors are; tension headaches, migraine headaches, and cervicogenic headaches.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches, typically characterized as tightness around the head. Tension primarily resides in the back of the head near the base of the skull. When the tension radiates to the sides and front of the head, it can feel like a tight band around the head. Tension headache pain is often referred to as being dull and achy. A hallmark sign of tension headaches is that the pain is usually on both sides of the head and neck. A final component of these headaches is that they cause tight and tender muscles (trigger points) in the neck and shoulder blades.
Stress is a significant contributor to tension headaches, making stress management strategies beneficial. Stress management can include journaling, breathing techniques, meditation, therapy, quality sleep, or increasing enjoyable and meaningful life activities. Chiropractor therapies that help alleviate neck and head tension are also beneficial. Myofascial release and chiropractic adjustments are the more popular techniques. However, some people have found acupuncture to be helpful as well.
Migraines are notorious for being extremely painful, causing nausea and vomiting in some cases. These are usually pulsating or throbbing on one side of the head. They typically start to occur during childhood or early adulthood and are recurring. Sometimes there are stages; however, not everyone experiences the following. The first stage can sometimes be mood changes, food cravings, changes with bowel or urination, and a stiff neck. The second stage can include visual changes such as blind spots, flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or tingling in the arms or legs. Finally, the migraine headache portion can last between 4-72 hours. Many times there is also a sensitivity to lights and or noise. The last stage, known as a migraine hangover, can consist of feeling tired, weak, and having difficulty concentrating.
Many migraine sufferers have found relief through chiropractic and spinal adjustments. Because migraines are more involved than tension headaches, other strategies are also important. For example, being aware of triggers related to certain foods, alcohol, or stress, then eliminating those triggers. Some people find headache diaries useful for discovering triggers. Finally, medications can help with migraines, so discussing them with a medical doctor is valuable.
Cervicogenic headaches are definite referral headaches resulting from neck pain or a neck injury. They usually start as a neck injury with painful and limited movements. A significant difference between cervicogenic and tension headaches is that cervicogenic headaches are often one-sided headaches.
Because cervicogenic headaches are secondary to neck pain, managing the neck injury is essential. Soft tissue therapies such as myofascial release and spine adjustments are excellent. Depending on the injury, rehabilitation may be necessary.
It's helpful to understand that there are sometimes overlaps between two headaches. For example, migraine headaches can become tension headaches. Also, each of the headaches mentioned has components of neck pain. This referral results from the head and neck sharing the same nervous system pathways.
Although most headaches are not life-threatening, there are some red flags to be aware of. If you are experiencing a new and incredibly abrupt or severe headache, you should seek medical attention immediately. Additional red flags are chronic headaches that are worse with exertion or straining—neurological symptoms such as numbing or weakness in the face or double vision. Finally, a headache with fever or a new headache if over the age of 50 warrants medical attention.
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