Understanding Headaches

young woman holding her head in pain

One of the most common and frustrating pains that we deal with in day to day life is the dreaded headache. But, did you know that not all headaches are created equally? Today our goal is to describe and understand the two most common types of headaches and gives you some tips on how to reduce their intensity and occurrence. As always, consult with a physician to confirm your diagnosis and choose the best unique treatment for you.

Migraine Headaches

About 13% of the U.S. population will suffer from migraine headaches at some point in their lives. These headaches are generally debilitating because they cause changes in speech, light sensitivity, and can even induce nausea and vomiting in some people. The typical pain of a migraine headache is one-sided and will generally begin with mild symptoms that gradually progress into the full headache. Eventually that headache subsides and the symptoms slowly disappear too.

Migraine headaches have been shown to respond to certain medications that may be prescribed by a medical doctor or neurologist. They may also respond to over-the-counter pain medications. However, the most important part of treating them is identifying your specific trigger- it can be stress, certain foods, or even hormonal changes.

There are some other promising ways to go about managing migraine headaches:

  • Supplementing 400-500mg of magnesium daily may be helpful in preventing migraines
  • Dietary changes have shown to be effective if the migraine trigger is related to a food intolerance- the top culprits are usually products containing dairy and gluten
Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are by far the most common. It is believed that anywhere between 30-80% of us suffer from occasional tension-type headaches. They can present in many different ways because the pain can be referred from different areas. The classical tension headache is described as “a band across the head”. Typical tension headaches can last for as little as 30 minutes and can last as long as a week. In some people, they can become chronic and are present more than 15 days per month.
Tension headaches tend to respond to certain movements or positions of the head and neck. Because this pain is usually what we call referred pain. In many people, tension headaches may also be coming from their jaw.

For the treatment of tension headaches, over the counter medications can be used in order to decrease pain. You may also try gently massaging the muscles of the head, neck, and jaw in order to see if that provides any relief. If they don’t resolve quickly with home-care, then it’s best to seek consult with a qualified practitioner in order to develop an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

The following treatments have been shown to be effective in the treatment of tension-type headaches:

If you, or someone you know, suffers from headaches and has not had the relief that they desire then they should look to have a thorough examination with a qualified professional.

Wishing you a healthy and happy week,

Stephen Shinault DC

Please take a look at the following links to learn more about these headaches:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024778/  (migraines)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444224/ (tension headaches)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11562654 (headaches and spinal manipulation)

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