If It’s Not A Migraine, What Is It?

By Dr. Kevin Wafer

November 9, 2015

In my blog post last month, I discussed migraine headaches, and how to determine if you suffer from migraines or from another type of headache. If in the last blog you learned that you do not have migraines, this blog can help you determine exactly what type of headaches you get.

Is It A Tension Headache?

One of the most common headaches, and the one I treat most often as a chiropractor, is the tension headache. Although the exact cause of tension headaches is unknown, the most common theory is that muscle contraction in the neck and head lead to headaches. This is why they are sometimes termed cervicogenic headaches, since they begin in the neck. Stress is also a common trigger for tension headaches.

The most common symptoms of a tension headache are a dull, aching head pain. These headaches are often described as tightness around the forehead, sides and back of the head, like wearing a head band. The muscles of the neck and shoulder areas are also commonly tender to the touch during a tension headache. Unlike migraine headaches, tension headaches are not accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or visual disturbances. Since many tension headaches are due to tightness in the neck and shoulder, chiropractic care is usually very effective in the treatment of this type of headache.

Is It A Cluster Headache?

Cluster headaches, although not as common as tension or migraine headaches, are often described as the most painful of all headaches. These headaches are referred to as cluster headaches since they commonly occur in cyclical patterns, or clusters. These periods usually occur over a period of weeks or months, and then may go into remission for months or even years before returning.

The most common symptoms of a cluster headache include excruciating pain near one eye, that may radiate to other parts of the face, head or neck. However, the pain is always on only one side of the face. The pain is usually described as sharp or burning and that they feel like a hot poker is going through their eye. During a cluster headache, people often complain of excessive tearing in one eye, redness in the eye, or a runny nose.

Due to the cyclical nature, the most common theory to explain the cause of cluster headaches is an imbalance in the hypothalamus section of the brain. However, this has not been proven. Unlike migraine or tension headaches, there are rarely triggers for cluster headaches. Men are generally more likely to suffer from cluster headaches, and you are more likely to suffer from them if you have a parent or sibling with the same condition.

Is It A Sinus Headache?

Finally, one of the more misunderstood headaches is the sinus headache. Often times people who believe they have sinus headaches, actually suffer from migraines or tension headaches. Common symptoms of a tension headache are pain or pressure in the cheeks, brow, or forehead, stuffy nose, fatigue and pain when bending forward. Since migraines can also cause nasal symptoms and worsening symptoms when bending forward, migraines can be misdiagnosed as a sinus headache. To differentiate the two, sinus headaches rarely cause nausea and vomiting, and are typically not worsened by loud noises and bright lights.

Contrary to what most think, sinus headaches are not caused by sinus infections. For this reason, they do not respond to antibiotics. Chiropractic adjustments to the upper cervical spine can help relieve sinus pressure, thus helping to relief the pain of a sinus headache.

As you can see, many headaches exhibit very similar symptoms, and it can be hard to diagnose which type of headache you suffer from. If you begin experiencing any of these symptoms, seek attention from a professional as soon as possible. Chiropractic has been proven effective in treating many different types of headaches.

Dr. Kevin Wafer

About the author

Dr. Kevin Wafer was born and raised in Spring, TX. Since his mother worked as a chiropractic assistant, he spent much of his childhood in a chiropractic clinic and was adjusted for the first time at only 3 months of age. Click Here To Read Full Bio

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