There are many different types of headaches, but the most common types fall under one of the following categories: sinus, migraine, tension and cervicogenic headaches.
The most important thing is to rule out a serious life threatening cause. If you’ve never experienced a headache and you have a sudden severe headache, especially after a head injury, you should seek immediate medical attention.
The most common types we see in a chiropractic office are tension, cervicogenic and T.M.J. related headaches.
Cervicogenic headache is pain that originates from the cervical spine and radiates to the sides and or the front of the head. It is possible for the pain to be due to pathology in the cervical spine, but typically it comes from irritated cervical joints and the surrounding muscles, and ligaments. The cause of the irritated joints and soft tissue may be from whiplash or whiplash type injury, or poor posture.
The photo shows all of the many small muscles in the back of the head and top of the neck. These muscles rotate, flex and extend the head.
Photo credit: The Chiropractic Assistant, Volume 4 issue 2, 2016.
Tension headaches are caused by muscular tension within facial muscles that are triggered by high stress, eye strain, or anxiety. These can usually be resolved on their own or with stress reducing techniques. The patients we typically see with headaches usually have jobs where they are sitting for long periods. The prolonged sitting may affect the posture of their head and stress the muscles in the back of the head as shown in the photo above.
A T.M.J. type of headache is pain that originates from the jaw and radiates to the temples. An injury to the jaw can cause a muscular imbalance at the jaw and can even cause a shift in the jaw’s gait as it opens and closes.
The headaches described above are addressed first by examining the head and neck for overactive and weak muscles, head posture, and possible joint restrictions. These are corrected with joint mobilization, myo-fascial release of the muscles, exercises and stretches to improve posture.