What type of headache do you have?

You potentially have experienced a headache in your lifetime and a lot of times our default assumption is it’s a “migraine” type headache. But would you believe that migraines are only one type of primary headache and not even the most common one! Chances are what you experienced was not a migraine at all. This blog will highlight some of the most common headaches and their causes as well as effective researched treatments.

Four common types of headaches that occur are:

  1. Migraines
  2. Cervicogenic headaches
  3. Tension headaches
  4. Cluster headaches


These headaches will begin on one side of the head around the front, side and eye in a throbbing or pulsating manor. They will progress backwards around the head over the next few hours to become diffuse around the entire head and can be quite severe and debilitating which usually requires rest as physical activity aggravates these headaches. Nausea, vomiting, light and noise sensitivity are quite common.

These headaches may or may not also present initially with an “aura” preceding the headache which occurs hours to days before hand. Neurological events such as a flash of light, squiggly lines, depression, food cravings or repetitive yawning can occur. The aura usually doesn’t last longer than 60 minutes and then will progress into the above symptoms. These headaches may last 1 to 72 hours and if chronic, episodically greater than 3 months.

Cervicogenic Headaches

The name means pain that originates from structures in the neck and or mid back including soft tissues, joints and nerves. The pain radiates from these structures to the front and side of the head during neck movements. This type of headache is very common and what most people mistake for a “migraine”.

Symptoms are steady-achy, throbbing pain usually on one side but can be both sides of the head, front of the head and even behind the eyes. Symptoms may also travel down into the arm and shoulder. In some instances, nausea, dizziness, light/sound sensitivity and blurred vision may occur due to associated nerves involved.

Typically these headaches will be recreated when tissues in the neck are challenged and don’t usually last longer than 1-3 days.

Tension Type Headaches

These headaches are the most common primary headache and are band like in nature wrapping around both sides of the head which can feel like tightening or pressing type pain. They range from mild to moderate intensity and last anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 days but are not aggravated by physical activity or structures in the neck.

These headaches are poorly understood and typically are diagnosed after ruling out all other headaches. However, it’s believed that there is a dysregulation in pain control pathways which can be aggravated by myofascial systems and stress. Chronic tension headaches may actually be a chronic migraine without an aura.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are quite severe and one sided around the eye, behind the eye and temporal regions. The individual suffering will show restlessness and agitation along with decreased sympathetic and increased sympathetic functions such as tearing, swelling, running nose with constricted eyelids and pupils. They can last 15 to 180 minutes and occur every other day for 6-12 weeks. Periods between attacks are about 12 months but can become chronic lasting longer then a year. Aggravating factors can include alcohol, allergies and nitroglycerine.

For further information on headaches and how we can treat them, please call our office 02 9905 9099 or email admin@neurohealthchiro.com.au

By Braeden Melmer – Chiroprator – Neurohealth

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