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WHAT IS A HEADACHE?

A headache is defined as a pain or discomfort in the head or face.

All headaches are not the same and vary greatly in terms of the location, intensity and cause.

In this article, we will review the most common types of headaches and their symptoms.

CERVICOGENIC HEADACHES
Cervicogenic headaches are defined as headaches that occur when pain is referred from a specific source in the neck or head region. It will usually begin as an intermittent pain but may progress to a continuous pain and may be triggered by abnormal movements, poor posture or sudden movements from coughing, sneezing or whiplash.

Some common symptoms include:

Pain is isolated to one side of the head, neck or face
Reduced cervical range of motion
Pain originating in the neck that radiates to the forehead, the eye, temple or ear.
Pain along the shoulder and arm
Eye swelling or blurred vision

TENSION HEADACHES
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and are sometimes referred to as chronic daily headaches. These headaches are caused by muscle contractions and cause mild to moderate pain. They can come and go and can be linked to stress and tight muscles.

Common symptoms of a tension headache include:

Slow onset
Pain usually occurs on both sides
Pain feels dull or like a band around the head
It is mild to moderate, but not severe
Typically, do not cause nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light

MIGRAINES
Migraines are a type of headache that can cause severe throbbing or pulsing pain, which usually occur on one side of the head. These headaches that are accompanied with symptoms other than pain. Such symptoms include nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness and visual symptoms. They also occur with distinct phases.

Not all people experience every phase, but the migraine phases may include:

Prodromal phase- A noticeable chance in mood or behavior may occur hours or days before the migraine.
Aura phase- Categorized as a group of visual, sensory or motor symptoms that may proceed the migraine. Symptoms include vision changes, hallucinations, numbness, slurred speech and muscle weakness.
Headache phase- throbbing or pulsing headache occurring on one or both sides of the head accompanied by sensitivity to light and motion, depression, fatigue and anxiety.
Resolution phase- the pain begins to decrease during this phase but might be replaced with fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

CLUSTER HEADACHE
Cluster headaches may occur one to three times per day during a period, which may last weeks or months and may go into remission for months or years and recur later down the line.

Common symptoms include:

Severe pain on one side of the head, usually behind one eye
The affected eye might be red, watery, droopy or have a small pupil
Swelling of the eye lid
Congestion or runny nose
Swelling of the forehead

FINAL THOUGHTS
Proper diagnosis and treatment requires a comprehensive exam and associated neurologic testing. Effective headache management depends on the type of headache but may include:

  • Avoiding triggers like certain foods and drinks, lack of sleep and fasting
  • Changing poor eating habits
  • Exercise
  • Resting in a quiet dark environment
  • Stress management
  • Proper hydration

When headache triggers are known, avoiding the trigger may prevent a headache. Reducing stress can minimize or prevent headaches. In some cases, daily preventative medicine may be utilized.

If you have been suffering from chronic headaches create a headache diary consisting of:

  • Day and time of the headache
  • Headache location
  • What the headache feels like
  • What you were doing when the headache began
  • How long the headache lasts
  • What makes it feel better or worse

A thorough headache diary will help with the proper diagnosis and treatment of your condition.

If you experience these often debilitating headaches, then please reach out to our office by emailing  frontdesk@stenosiscenter.com or call us at 310-451-5851

Article written by Dr. Johnnie Morgan, D.C.

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