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  • Dr. Mark Freund

What Causes Headaches?

man in bed with a headache

Headaches can be one of the most common debilitating features of a serious disease. In this article, we’ll cover the different types of headaches you may experience, what you should know about various headaches and disorders, common causes, and when the pain might be more than just headaches. Being able to identify the type and location of the pain can help during your visit to a doctor. Clearly explaining your headache symptoms may help your doctor determine the type of headache you are experiencing as well as the best treatment. Knowing what kind of headache is occurring, whether it is an inherited migraine or a common form, can make a big difference in finding relief faster.

Reasons for a Headache

Headaches occur for a variety of reasons, but in general, the more severe the headache is, the greater the risk of increased frequency, and the greater the likelihood that the headache will be treated with medication before understanding the root cause. Over reliance on medication can lead to drug overuse headache (MOH), which means that the use of medications to treat a headache actually cause recurrent headaches.

The first step to identify the reason for your headache is to drink enough water to test if your headache disappears. Dehydration headaches are difficult to distinguish from other headaches and are common with our busy lives taking up much of our attention.

Next, check your hunger levels and try to remember the last time you ate. Changes in blood sugar can trigger headaches both mild and severe. If it’s been awhile since your last meal, try eating while you drink sufficient water before moving to medication.

Other possible triggers are environmental influences such as too much direct sunlight and/or heat, consistent humidity, wind that is kicking up irritants, air pollution, and even noise or light. Environmental factors affect the body's immune system and impact everyone differently. If you are feeling overwhelmed by any environmental factor, removing that variable can help reduce the reason for your headache.

If you are allergic, you may get migraines or other headaches due to an allergen, which can then put stress on your body, causing headaches. You may need preventive treatment or daily medication if the cause of your headache is an allergic reaction which can be treated with an allergy medication.

In some cases, headaches can be caused by stress or infection and occur at any time even if you are hydrated, well fed, and minimizing environmental impacts. Is your headache accompanied by a run down feeling, do you have other symptoms of an illness, or have you just been overworking yourself or involved in stressful situations at home or the office? Your headache may be telling you it’s time to slow down and take some time for yourself to heal.

man complaining about headache to a doctor

However, headaches may also be a sign of something more serious for your health. If you’re experiencing consistent, frequent, or severe headaches it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor. Our office can help identify if there are any structural or lifestyle contributors to your headaches as well as offer natural solutions and remedies to alleviate or eliminate the pain. While we address all potential solutions, we also make sure to recommend another specialist if the cause of your headaches may indicate a more severe underlying health condition.

Types of Headaches

There are many types of headaches such as migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches but the two most common are tension headaches and migraines. Migraine and tension headaches usually have a genetic link; just as you inherit asthma or hereditary illness, you are likely to inherit a tendency to get headaches from your family. However, physical causes can also be a culprit in some instances such as sitting in one position for too long which puts strain on the back, neck, and head leading to migraines, tension, or headaches. Regardless of the causes, headaches and neck pain caused by migraines or tension headaches are not something to live with or suffer through when help is available from your local chiropractor’s office.

Tension headaches

The most common type of headache is called tension headache, also called muscle contraction headache, which feels like a tension of the muscles in the head, neck, or shoulders and can last for several minutes or even days. This muscle stressors are a common cause of contractions and headaches in the general population. The form of headache starts as a slight constricting feeling in the head, which often begins at the back, creeps forward, and is caused by a tight posture of the neck. The pain and tension of the headache tend to spread to other parts of the body where muscles may also contract to cause other types of issues such as a bad back and tense shoulders.

helping woman with headache

Tension headaches are considered normal everyday headaches and are slightly different from other types of headaches such as migraine and sinusitis. Symptoms of new daily persistent headache (NDPH) can mimic tension headaches and migraines, and they can even occur in people who have no history of headaches.

Tension-type headaches occur more frequently and can sometimes include a dull pressure or pain on the side of the head. Certain types of tension headaches can recur over weeks or months and usually resolve when stress is relieved, but sometimes they can also cause more severe headaches such as a migraine. The pain in tension headaches is usually mild to moderate, causing the sides of the head hurt. You feel as if someone is pressing or putting pressure on your head, face, or neck. If your headaches occurs gradually or after long exertion, they may be caused by muscle tension or dehydration, or both.

Migraine Headaches

A headache that is often in one focused area and makes you sick is likely to be more of a migraine than a headache. Men are more likely to have sudden headaches, often marked by pain on one side of the head or in the eyes than women. This type of migraine usually begins with throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. If a person has mild or severe headaches without pain on the other side, then suddenly develops severe and / or throbbing headaches on all parts of the head, he or she may be experiencing a migraine. This type of consistent headache can severely impact someone’s life leading to stress and depression, which in turn can lead to more headaches.

Sometimes, too much physical activity can also trigger migraines in adults, but if you have addressed other immediate reasons for headaches, or get these frequently, you may want to consider working with your doctor for an exam. Once you get your headache correctly diagnosed, you can start the right treatment plan for your symptoms.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are named as such because they occur in groups and can last from two weeks to three months. You may wake up from sleep and get a headache that lasts between 15 minutes and 3 hours followed by more headaches later in the day or for days after. The cluster period can last from 2 days to 2 months with multiple headaches occurring throughout that time. Cluster headaches often feel more like stabbing pain or throbbing pain than a migraine but often occur in groups of up to three or four headaches at a time.

Primary Headaches

Primary headaches are described as headaches that occur only due to an underlying disease or injury that causes them. They are characterized by a combination of a number of other symptoms such as severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Rebound headaches

Rebound headaches (also known as drug-induced overload headaches) can be duller and more tension-like - headaches of the type, but also more intense and migraine-like in nature. They can either feel boring or like a tension headache; or, the pain of a medication - excessive headache might be less intense but still more painful than tension headaches.

Chronic Headaches

If you have consistent or regular multiple headaches, this may indicate a more specific diagnosis such as a chronic headache/migraine disorder. If you have been working with your chiropractor to rule out other factors but aren’t finding relief, it is also advisable to consult a neurologist or a headache specialist for treatment. Chronic migraines have a wide range of potential causes that may require a team of doctors working together in order to address the underlying causes. Long term issues are some of the most difficult to diagnose and treat without the right support. Natural Care Chiropractic is dedicated to the wellbeing of our patients and their treatment including consulting with primary care physicians or other specialists.


Headaches that you feel in the upper neck, back of the head, or behind the ears are caused by a combination of muscle tension or dehydration, as well as sleep deprivation. We recommend you track your headaches to learn what most often causes them to avoid triggers in the first place. If you are working to heal from this type of pain and your headache pattern changes, it is important to consult your doctor especially when you are not sure of the cause or nature of your headache to prevent further problems.

chiropractic treatments and therapy for headaches

Your doctor will draw up a treatment and prevention plan that meets your specific needs. Once you start your treatment program, you can track your symptoms, as well as your current health and condition. If tension headaches are very common and you have had headaches for more than a few days, your doctor will ask you for a background of potential triggers. After you see a chiropractic specialist they may recommend a neurologist or headache specialists rule out the more serious causes of headaches.

A headache diary can help you record patterns and changes in your headaches as well as track potential triggers. Be honest about what works and what doesn't work for you during your treatment. Try patience and sticking with your team of doctors knowing that it may take some time to find the best treatment plan for you. Make sure you schedule follow-up appointments so your doctor can see how you are doing and make changes to your treatment program if necessary. It is important to stick to healthy habits that feel good for you and stay away from triggers while you are being treated.

Chiropractic Headache Treatments: Alternative and Integrative Treatments

What kind of headache treatment you need depends on several factors, including the type of headache you get, the frequency, and the severity of the headaches.

Chiropractic care is one of the primary categories that support healing from migraines by developing a wide-ranging treatment plan unique to your situation. Our treatment plans do not require medication or surgery to relieve headaches and migraines so they can be used before or during other forms of treatment such as medication. Chiropractic treatment is an effective treatment for many types of headaches, including migraines. Chiropractic treatment of migraine is unique in that it involves several methods of treating the cause of migraine and headache, rather than just trying to mitigate the effects once the migraine has already begun. From chronic headaches to migraines and tension headaches, chiropractic treatment is a proven, safe, and drug-free method for diagnosing, treating, and preventing headaches naturally.

Neck and back pain can also be triggers for migraines. Chiropractic treatments are not only effective in treating headaches and migraines but also in treating the existing neck and back pain that may be causing the headaches. As it can address many underlying issues, natural chiropractic pain relief is gaining popularity in order to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches as well as their duration and severity. It is now used in many treatment plans as a primary solution or in coordination with other medical practices.

applying ice cold therapy

During chiropractic treatment, various alternative therapies such as hot or cold therapy may be recommended to help relieve headaches or migraines more quickly. Manual therapy can relieve migraines and tension headache discomfort by focusing on the stiff neck, back, and back muscles. These muscle relaxing treatments help with muscle tension and other symptoms of stress headaches for active prevention.

If you suffer from migraine or tension headaches or are considering treatments to help you with your headaches, and would like to learn more about chiropractic treatment for your migraine, please contact our team at Natural Care Chiropractic today. Visit our chiropractic office to learn how chiropractic care can help those who suffer from headaches and other conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and neck stiffness. Your chiropractor will recommend a treatment plan that includes chiropractic treatments and techniques that can help relieve headaches and treat the underlying ailments that can cause your pain. Our team will discuss your headaches and migraines and work to determine the cause of the problem and whether chiropractic treatment is right for you. Whether it is a migraine, cluster headaches, or tension headaches, your chiropractor may adjust a treatment plan that targets these causes.

Your chiropractor can also review possible neck injuries that often occur with a concussion event and make cervical spine adjustments to relieve headaches of all types. Chiropractic adjustments can also alleviate acute and chronic neck pain and reduce the number of headaches you have, especially if you suffer from chronic headaches such as migraines, cluster headaches, or tension headaches. You can rely on your trained chiropractors to help you treat headaches and migraines while avoiding side effects and complications. When you work with a chiropractor, they can help you identify lifestyle changes necessary to see significant improvements in your headaches and migraines. They can help patients manage and treat recurrent headaches, migraines and other types of chronic headaches, with a variety of treatments including acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and manual therapy. Enjoy the many additional benefits of chiropractic care by making an appointment today. Find relief from your headaches with an all-natural treatment and prevention plan.

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