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Common Conditions



Types Of Headaches

Headaches are one of the most frequent complaints. Many of us are familiar with some form of the throbbing, uncomfortable and distracting pain of a headache. Although headaches can be defined as pain in any region of the head, the cause, duration, and intensity of this pain can vary according to whether they are primary headaches or secondary headaches. The most common headaches are primary headaches. Primary headaches occur when the pain in the head is the condition or is not being triggered by something that the body is dealing with like allergies or illness.

Tension headaches are extremely common and most people will experience them. They present as a dull and constant pain felt on both sides of the head. Other symptoms can include tenderness of the face, head, neck and shoulders, a feeling of pressure behind the eyes and sensitivity to light and sound. These headaches normally last from 30 minutes to several hours. Severity can vary but these headaches rarely prevent day-to-day activities. The cause of tension headaches is ambiguous but stress, anxiety and depression are usual triggers. Other potential triggers include loud noise, skipped meals, eye strain, lack of exercise, bad posture, sleep disruption or dehydration.

Migraine pain is an intense pulsing from deep within the head and can last for days. It is often throbbing and usually one-sided. The headache significantly limits the ability to carry out daily activity. People with migraine headaches are often sensitive to light and sound. Some migraine is preceded by visual disturbances. About one out of five people will experience these symptoms before the headache starts. Known as an aura, it may cause one to see stars, blind spots, flashing lights, shimmering lights or zigzag lines. Auras can also include tingling on one side of the face or in one arm and trouble speaking. Migraine attacks can also be associated with other nervous system conditions or run in the family. Women are three times more likely to develop migraine as well as individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. Certain environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals, some foods or hormone fluctuations are also common migraine triggers.

Cervicogenic headache (CGH) is a chronic headache that arises from the atlanto-occipital and upper cervical joints. A cervicogenic headache is a common cause of a chronic headache that is often misdiagnosed as migraines. It is actually rooted in the cervical spine (neck) or base of the skull region. They are caused by problems with the nerves, bones or muscles in the neck. Although pain may be felt in the head, instead, the pain is actually a referred pain from another location in the body.

Treatment for headaches is customizable depending on the type of headaches. Physical therapy, soft tissue massage and gentle spinal manipulation can help alleviate the pain in the head and neck. These techniques work to reduce nerve irritation, decrease muscular tension, increase circulation in the tissues, correct alignment, and improve the mobility of the cervical spine. Rehabilitation recommendations such as exercises, lifestyle and nutrition can also be provided to address usual triggers and prevent future recurrence. If in doubt, do seek professional advice.