There are different types of headaches. The most common is a tension headache. This headache can last 24 hours on average, but goes away with an Advil or Tylenol and is not a cause for concern. People do not usually seek medical help for this kind of ailment.
A migraine is a bit more serious, with pain that can last from 4 hours to 3 days. It can become very irritating in the long run, especially if the pain persists for 3 days. It is a rather severe headache that is also associated with other kinds of pain, such as light and noise sensitivity, dizziness and nausea. Women are more susceptible, with 16% experiencing migraines, while 6% of men are affected.
The origin of migraines is thought to be vascular, though it is impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons. This means that blood flow to the brain stem (in the spinal column) is more active. That is why women suffer from migraines more often during menstruation.
Migraines are a hereditary problem for some people. For women, migraines occur most frequently in adolescence. It is important to talk about migraines to receive good treatment.
Some headaches are caused by trauma, like a concussion. These are often accompanied by nausea.
Another type of headache that we often see at our clinic is the cervicogenic headache, which is linked to the neck, cervical dysfunction or even jaw problems. As we discussed in a previous column, this type of headache is often caused by extended poor posture, which causes tension.
First, you have to accurately identify the type of headache you have. If it is a migraine, you should seek medical treatment because there are effective medications that you can take before a migraine sets in. People who suffer from them can recognize the signs that a migraine is coming on. Sample indications include reduced field of vision or stinging on the face.
Pay attention because your problem may not be caused JUST by migraines. If your headache lasts for more than 3 days, you may suffer from neck tension. In that case, not only should you treat the migraine with medication, you should also address the cause of the ailment with physical therapy.
As for cervicogenic headaches, the pain will often be unilateral (restricted to one side). Pain that originates in the neck, the forehead or behind the eye on a single side is a complaint we often hear. In these situations, the pain may be due to an irritated structure in the neck. The neck extends from the skull to the third cervical vertebra. The jaw can also be the source of headaches. In our clinic, we can treat these structures with physical therapy to relax them and quiet the pain.
There are many small muscles at the back of the skull (the suboccipital muscles) that can become very tense from prolonged bad posture, which is also a cause of headaches. At home, apply a bit of heat to the neck to help relax these muscles and reduce symptoms over time. If there is a more serious biomechanical or joint issue, you should see a doctor.
To alleviate this type of pain, we can also rehabilitate the muscles and train the proper ones to work to stabilize the spinal column and correct posture, which is often the cause.
In summary, if the pain persists and does not subside, see a professional because there is a reason for the headache and it is possible to find relief.