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Different Headaches Require Different Treatments

Headaches are all too common in the general population. From a study published in 2018, the prevalence of a migraine/severe headache episode was 1 out of 6 Americans over a 3 month study period. Less severe headaches are even more common than that.

This is not to say that headaches are normal, however. Especially for those individuals who suffer from chronic headache syndromes.

If you are having multiple headaches per week and this has been an issue for months/years... THIS IS NOT NORMAL! But rest assured, there are things that can be done to help.

To begin, it's vitally important to realize the key differences between the 3 major primary/uncomplicated headache syndromes...

  1. Tension-Type Headache

  2. Migraine Headache

  3. Cluster Headache

Tension-Type Headache

-Most common form of headache

-Affects more than 40% of the adult population worldwide

-Women affected slightly more than men

-Characterized by mild/moderate pressure on both sides of the head

Migraine Headache

-Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light/sound

-Physical activity makes it worse

-Sufferers describe a "pulsing" nature to their pain/discomfort

-Lasts for 4-72 hours

-Usually localized to one side of the head

-An "aura" may be present (visual/sensory/speech symptoms that precede migraine attack)

Cluster Headache

-Brief episodes (15-180 min.)

-Several attacks per day

-Episodes occur daily for weeks followed by periods of remission that can last months

-Characterized by sharp, pulsating, or pressure-like symptoms

-Pain can be behind the eyes, in the temple region, upper/lower teeth, jaw/cheek, and neck

-One sided symptoms like eyelid swelling, congestion, watery eyes, and forehead sweating

The exact underlying causes of these different headaches is the topic of much debate, but there is some general consensus regarding the effectiveness of certain treatments for the different headache syndromes.

Tension-type headaches seem to respond favorably to upper cervical mobilization techniques and lightly resisted neck exercises. Chronic tension-type headaches also seem to respond well to upper cervical manipulation.

Cervical and cervicothoracic manipulation has been documented to be an effective intervention for both episodic and chronic migraines. Weekly massage therapy may be an effective treatment for chronic/recurrent migraine attacks as well. Migraines have also been linked to poor dietary habits and certain foods have been known to trigger migraine attacks in some individuals.

Cluster headaches may respond favorably to chiropractic treatment, but medical management (i.e. using medications and injections) seems to be the most effective treatment. Things like sumatriptan injections, zolmitriptan nasal sprays, high flow oxygen therapy, and suboccipital muscle steroid injections have all been shown to be useful treatments.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when treating headache syndromes. Make sure to find a provider that is considering all of the different options outlined above.

Lastly, if you're currently struggling with headaches let us know if we can help you!

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