Headaches slowing you down: Which type do you suffer from?
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They tend appear intermittently and feel like a constant ache, “squeezing” or “pressure” sensation around both sides of the head, particularly over the temples, front or back of the head, similar to the feeling of wearing a tight band. The pain is typically even, not throbbing and will not cause nausea, visual changes (aura), sensitivity to light or sensitivity to sound. Potential causes include general stress, lack of sleep or rest, muscular stress, postural imbalance, and jaw dysfunction. Tension headaches are not typically aggravated by physical activity. Management includes massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, stress management, nutrition, acupuncture, medication, and self-care lifestyle modifications.
Cluster headaches are recurring headaches that occur in groups or cycles. They appear suddenly and are characterized by severe, “debilitating”, “excruciating” or “piercing” pain on one side of the head, and are often accompanied by a watery eye, nasal congestion or a runny nose on the same side of the face. During an attack, people often feel restless and are unable to get comfortable; they are unlikely to lie down, as someone with a migraine might. The exact mechanism of cluster headaches are unknown however, potential causes include genetic predisposition, hormonal influences due to hypothalamus dysfunction, disorders of serotonin metabolism, histamine irregularity, and disrupted regulation of arteries of the brain. Potential triggers may include stress, glare or bright lights, allergies alcohol and tobacco and extreme temperatures. Management includes massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, stress management, nutrition, acupuncture, medication and self-care lifestyle modifications.
Sinuses are air-filled spaces located in your forehead, cheekbones, and behind the bridge of your nose. The sinuses drain through channels in the nose. When a sinus becomes inflamed, often due to an infection, tumour or allergic reaction, the inflammation causes swelling and increased mucus production, which results in an increased pressure leading to pain. Symptoms of a sinus headache feel like a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever and facial swelling. Headaches due to sinus infection can be treated with antibiotics, as well as antihistamines or decongestants.
Migraine headaches result in intense throbbing or pulsating sensation typically over one side of the head, localized to the temple and frontal regions, though the location may vary. Symptoms are often accompanied with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound. Some migraines are preceded by sensory “warning” signs (“aura”) such as flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling and numbness in the arm or leg. The pain and associated symptoms may last hours to days and are frequently described as debilitating. Migraines are still poorly understood though links have been made to familial predisposition, stress, imbalances in the brain (particularly serotonin), hormonal changes in women (fluctuations in estrogen), pregnancy, menopause, oral contraceptives, foods (aged cheeses, salty or processed foods), skipping meals, food additives (aspartame and monosodium glutamate), drinks (wine, caffeine), bright lights, changes in wake-sleep cycle, changes in barometric pressure and certain medications. Management of migraine headaches include stress management, chiropractic, relaxation techniques, massage therapy, hydrotherapy, sleep, nutrition (feverfew, omega-3 oils, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavinoids, magnesium, vitamin B2 and B6), acupuncture and prescription medication.
- abrupt onset or very severe (especially if no previous history)
- new headache in an older individual
- headache due to trauma
- tingling or numbness
- disturbed vision or pressure behind the eye
- cognitive changes / altered consciousness
- seizures, vomiting
- persistent, progressive headache
- marked neck stiffness
- persistent or severe headache in a child
- known cancer
If you or a loved one experiences any one of these types of headaches, schedule a chiropractic and medical check-up as soon as possible to have an assessment and to determine the appropriate plan of management. Should you or a loved one experience any warning signs for pathological headaches, visit a medical doctor or emergency physician as soon as possible. Don’t let headaches slow you down!