Are you one of the millions of Canadians suffering from headaches? I treat headaches on a daily basis and what surprises most patients is to know that there are over 30 types of headaches according to the International Headache Classification. In this post I break down how to identify 5 of the most common types of headaches and provide tips on how to manage these nagging pains.
The most common type of headache, in fact it makes up 90% of all headaches. There are many factors that can lead to these headaches including – lack of sleep, lack of water, and more commonly stress. Here are the characteristics associated with Tension type headaches:
If this resembles your headache, then you’re in luck. Therapies like chiropractic and acupuncture can be very helpful in treating these headaches. At home therapies, including meditation, aerobic exercise and placing an icepack on the site of pain for 10 mins as well as a heating pain on the neck and upper shoulders at the same time, can also help you manage pain.
Did you know that migraines are the 6th most debilitating illness in the world! And with the severe intensity associated with these headaches it’s no wonder why. Also unlike tension headaches these headaches are associated with nausea and dizziness.
About 20% of migraine sufferers also experience visual or sensory changes occurring before the actual head pain. This is called, aura, and can include seeing zig zags, flickering light, numbness or tingling along the face or mouth.
Migraine sufferers usually have specific triggers. Some include specific foods, temperature changes, stress etc. I often recommend that migraine sufferers keep a headache diary. A diary can help you keep track of when you get headaches which can help identify triggers. These diaries or apps can also track how long the headaches last, if medications help, any other symptoms all can be used to help identify what type of headache you may be suffering from.
Although not as common as the other headaches these headaches can be very severe. The good news is they don’t typically last longer than a couple of hours. Unlike migraine or tension headaches these headaches have symptoms affecting the eyes and nose. Tearing of the eye, swelling or drooping of eyelid, runny noses etc.
In practice, acupuncture has been helpful to reduce some of the symptoms associated with these headaches. However for the majority of patients I usually recommend following up with their family doctor for medication advise, as certain medications are very effective in treating these headaches.
Sinus headaches are usually caused by an infection and inflammation of the nasal passages. That leads to congestion. And that causes pain and pressure in the forehead and behind the cheekbones.
In association with antibiotics to treat the infection, acupuncture is extremely successful in treating these types of headaches. Acupuncture help to relieve pressure by promoting drainage of the congested sinuses.
Self massage over the sinus can help to promote drainage and try ice over the sinus for 10 min to reduce the pain of the pressure.
These are my absolute favorite headaches to treat. Why because they involve a bunch of muscles that I enjoy to stretch. These are headaches originating in the neck. Often poor posture and yes that includes sitting at a desk all day long, can lead to these headaches. There are certain muscles in the neck including the sub occipitals (more on those later), the trapezius and the scalenes that become tight with poor posture and stress. These muscles develop trigger points which lead to pain in the head.
The sub occipital muscles are often the biggest culprit. This muscles are often over-worked after hours of sitting at a computer with our chins jutted forward towards the screen. When tight these muscles can put pressure on nearby nerves as those nerves travel the forehead and temporal region, bringing with it pain and ultimately a headache.
These headaches respond particularly well to chiropractic care. Muscle release techniques of the affected muscles, joint mobilizations, and postural exercises and rehabilitation are very effective in treating these types of headaches.
Make sure to pay attention to your posture when at your desk. Keep you shoulder back and down and screens should be directly in front you. Take stretch breaks every hour to receive tension. If need be, set a alarm on your computer to remind you to take those breaks.
If you are a headache sufferer I highly recommend keeping track of your headaches. There are numerous apps that will allow you to track various characteristics of your headaches helping you to identify the type of headache you are suffering from. Do keep in mind that headaches of different types can occur at the same time, which may make it difficulty to identify the headache type. For more information do contact your health practitioner and know that there are treatments available to help ease the pain of your next headache.
For more information please contact me or visit my office at Integra Health Centre www.integrahealthcentre.ca
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