Headache affect almost everyone at some point, and a headache can present itself in different ways. Some people may experience dull pain on both sides of their head (tension headache), neck to the back of the head (Cervicogenic headache), and a 'throbbing' or 'pounding' sensation inside their head (migraine). These headaches can last from a few minutes to several days. Fortunately, not many headaches have serious underlying causes.
The most common cause for this headache is usually tightness in the neck or upper back muscles associated with bad posture or holding your neck or back in a single position for a prolonged period.
If you're suffering from a headache, a chiropractor can help by performing a 'neck adjustment,' where they will identify the trigger points in your neck muscles and realign them to ease inflammation and other unpleasant symptoms. It's one of the primary treatments provided by chiropractors and is a very effective natural treatment for tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines.
To help you deal with your headache better, here's everything you need to know, from the different types of headache, how a neck adjustment can help, and preventive measures.
Types of Headaches
Depending on your condition, your doctor will typically diagnose you with a specific type of headache. There are 17 types of headaches, but tension or stress headache, Cervicogenic headache, and migraine are the three most common recurrent headache that almost everyone has experienced in their lifetime. Let's dive into each one.
The tension headache is the most common headache that people experience, impacting over 70% of sufferers. It generally causes mild to moderate pain in your head that people describe as having a tight band around your head. There are two kinds of tension headaches, including:
- Episodic Tension Headaches - A type of headache that lasts around a couple of minutes to several weeks. Frequent episodes of this tension headache usually occur less than two weeks a month and last up to three months. When left untreated, it can become chronic.
- Chronic Tension Headaches - It's the type of headache that lasts for hours and maybe continuous. You can tell if your headaches are chronic if it occurs for over two 15 days per month and lasts for three consecutive months.
Although tension headaches are the most common form of headache, its exact causes aren't well-understood, but the common signs and symptoms that you may experience include:
- Dull head pain on one side or both sides of your head
- A feeling of tenderness on your neck, scalp, or shoulder muscles
- The feeling of having a 'tight band' across your head
There are plenty of ways to ease tension headaches, but you can easily prevent it from happening by fostering healthy habits and staying active.
A Cervicogenic headache is a common type of headache among office workers, drivers, and carpenters, providing a dull, non-throbbing pain radiating from the neck to the head's back. It can also spread along the scalp, affecting the forehead, temple, and area surrounding the eyes. It's a secondary headache that happens when you feel pain from an underlying source in your neck. Common causes of Cervicogenic headache include injury or trauma to the spinal cord, cancer, infection, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Mild Cervicogenic headaches usually radiate pain on one side, but it can affect both sides in severe cases. Although a Cervicogenic headache often roots from neck pain, it can also occur by itself. Common causes for this include excessive abnormal head movements and pressing on the back of your neck.
A Cervicogenic headache may be intermittent or occurs as a continuous headache, but goes away on its own. In addition to neck pain, other signs and symptoms of Cervicogenic headaches include:
- Mild to moderate dull non-throbbing pain on the neck and back of the head
- Pain on the forehead, temple, and area around the eyes or ears
- Mild to moderate shoulder and arm pain
- Side-locked pain that affects one side of the head or neck
- The eye on the affected side of your head may experience blurred vision
The severity and duration of Cervicogenic headaches vary with each episode and ranges from mild to severe, but it usually goes away on its own.
A migraine headache, commonly known as 'migraine,' is a disabling recurring headache that leaves a distinct moderate to severe throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of your head. More than half of the people suffering from a migraine experience neck pain before and during a migraine attack. The neck pain associated with it is usually limited to the upper neck region, while seldomly on the lower back and shoulder sides.
Like with most headaches, a migraine headache doesn't have a single underlying cause, but experts believe it may be due to the brain's hypersensitive neurons. They usually get triggered by environmental changes, including altitude changes, sudden temperature spikes or drops, and other factors, including hormones, drinks, foods, or smell. These triggering elements force the neurons to create pain pathways inside your brain, causing migraine symptoms.
The signs and symptoms of a migraine are slightly different from the others as sufferers go through 4 distinct stages. These include:
- Prodrome - A migraine headache is only one of the few headaches that provide 'warning signs' for sufferers several hours before it onsets. These include neck pain or stiffness, depression, increased hunger or food cravings, polyuria (increased urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), and excessive yawning.
- Aura - Auras happen a few minutes or hours before the migraine attack happens, and it usually allows sufferers to see flashes of light and bright odd shapes or spots. Other sensations you feel may in an aura include temporary vision loss, tingling in the upper or lower limbs, jerky movements, difficulty speaking, and hearing non-existent noises.
- Migraine Attack - When the official 'migraine headache' comes on, you'll experience severe throbbing or pulsating pain on one or both sides of your head, become sensitive to light or sound, nausea or vomiting, lightheadedness, and severe neck pain.
- Post-drome - After the migraine attack, you may feel confused, sudden weakness, and extreme exhaustion. These can continue for up to a day after the attack.
Migraines can last between 4 hours or three days when left untreated. However, a migraine headache won't always be severe and can go away on its own.
A chiropractor can provide a gentle and non-invasive therapy known as chiropractic adjustments to alleviate pain. Although chiropractic spinal manipulation is a well-known treatment for relieving headaches, specialty treatments such as neck adjustments can also help.
How Neck Adjustments Help With Headaches
A person's neck is one of the most crucial body parts, and it consists of seven small vertebrae known as the 'cervical spine.' Neck pain can result from several factors, including improper posture, accidents, aging, and more. It can also lead to headaches, migraine headaches, tension headaches, and Cervicogenic headaches as the most common ones associated with neck pain.
If you're suffering from headaches alongside neck pain, a chiropractor can help by performing neck adjustments. This procedure requires a chiropractor to use several chiropractic techniques, including cervical mobilization, where chiropractors need to identify the trigger points in your neck muscles and massage or realign them to loosen the issues around it.
When a chiropractor adjusts a patient's neck muscles into the proper position and applies pressure to the trigger points, it can relieve headaches. They may also make nutritional recommendations and encourage you to improve posture to avoid future headaches.
Preventive Measures for Headaches
Prevention is always better, and here are different ways you can prevent getting a headache:
- Make a headache diary to see which factors, such as weather, food, or mood, trigger your headaches.
- Exposure to nitrite compounds results in a migraine headache. It's best to avoid processed meats as it contains high levels of nitrite.
- Avoid eating food with MSG as it can trigger many headaches. These include soy sauce, package foods, and meat tenderizers.
- Avoid foods high in tyramine, an amino acid that triggers a migraine headache. These include ripened cheese, chocolate, and fermented food.
However, if you've been practicing these preventive measures and studied what remedies work with your specific headache, but the pain doesn't seem to be going away, it's time for you to call a chiropractor. They can help by performing neck adjustments and other chiropractic techniques to alleviate pain and provide long-term headache relief.
If you're looking for a reliable chiropractor to help with your specific condition, one of the most trusted names in the chiropractic industry is Dr. Peter Martinez. He has been helping patients get back to the best versions of themselves for seven years by treating their ailments, improving their overall health and well-being.
If you want to receive the best treatment and learn along the way, book an appointment with Dr. Martinez to get the care you deserve.