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Understanding Headaches

Everyone suffers from a headache from time to time, but how much do you really know about the throbbing in your noggin?  Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of headaches and how you can do your best to prevent them.

Tension Headache

3 out of 4 headaches are caused by tension in the neck, shoulder, jaw or scalp muscles, also known as a tension headache.  Definitely the most common headache in children and adults, tension headaches are described as a tightening, dull or squeezing pain on either or both sides of the head. They can last for a few minutes or even for a few days. They tend to start at the back of the head and move forward and are caused by stress, anxiety, fatigue or anger. 

Migraine Headaches

25-30 million Americans experience migraines every year. These headaches begin as a dull ache that transforms into an intense, throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head.  The pain can spread to both sides of the head and is often worsened by movement.  It can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and noise and you may experience visual symptoms before onset that include auras, flashing lights, blind spots or tunnel vision in one or both eyes.  These headaches can last a few hours or days.

Cluster Headaches

This type of headache is often described as a sharp, non-throbbing pain behind an eye.  It can happen several times a day, often occurring in a group which is why it’s referred to as a cluster.  It is thought that chemical reactions in the brain are responsible for these headaches.  Symptoms can include tearing of the eye, bloodshot eye and a runny nose on the side of the nose with the pain.  1 million people in the U.S. have cluster headaches, and it is found more commonly in men than in women.


There are things you can do if you are prone to any of these headaches to help you avoid them.  First and foremost, see your chiropractor.  Keeping your spine clear and in alignment can help prevent the onset of these headaches.  Also, watch your diet since some foods are known to be triggers for headaches. Manage stress in your life by exercising regularly, eating regular meals and getting plenty of rest. If you experience these headaches regularly, begin a diary to show to your chiropractor. This may help to get to the bottom of what may be triggering the onset.

Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of r. nial bradshaw

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