5 common headaches - did you know that there is more than one type of headache? Which type do YOU suffer from? How do they each differ and what can you do about them?

Headaches can be annoying, disruptive to work and home life and ruin your day, meaning you miss out on a productive day or time socialising with family and friends. 

 Headaches are very common, around 15% of Australians are taking pain medications for headaches at any one time. It is likely that nearly everyone will have a headache in their lifetime with people between 25-44 years of age more likely to report a headache although they can happen at any age.

 As osteopaths we see many patients with different headaches affecting their daily lives. We, just like you have also experienced different headaches and understand that they can be uncomfortable and troublesome.


Cervicogenic headache

A cervicogenic headache is a headache caused by restrictions in the structures including  nerves, joints and muscles in the neck. 

This type of headache is usually felt in the back of the head and gets worse during the day, it is commonly seen in desk workers and those with lots of stress, or in occupations where neck muscles and joints are put in uncomfortable positions.

 Tension headache

 A tension headache often feels like a constant and sometimes throbbing pain which sits around the head like a sport sweat band and can be felt around the temples, around the ear or jaw or to the back of the head. 

This type of headache is often associated with tight muscles around the neck and shoulders and can be caused by emotional or physical stress.


Migraines are a type of headache which can be severe and may or may not have an aura involving ringing in the ears, feeling nauseous or vision changes. 

Usually a migraine occurs because of a trigger which could be certain foods, lights, wine, hormonal changes or weather. 

A migraine usually occurs on one side the head, may be described as pulsating, may have nausea or vomiting, usually lasts 4-72 hours. A migraine can be quite disabling and may leave the person very tired after its finished.


Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches feel like a strong, sharp, painful sensation often felt behind the eye. 

They have a particular pattern and those with cluster headaches will get the same headache at the same time every day for a certain period of time,  depending on their individual pattern. 

 They often affect men more than women and often involve swelling or tearing of the eye or a runny nose. 


Medication headaches

Some medications can have unwanted side effects which can include headaches.

Common medications such as the oral contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy and diabetic medication can have side effects of a headache or worsen a headache. 

 It is also possible to have a medication withdrawal headache, whereby the medication you are taking for the headache actually becomes a large contributing factor in the headaches. These headaches are usually worse in the morning as the pain relief effects of the medications wear off and you will find pain medication less and less effective over time for your headache. 

 Ways you can reduce your risk of medication headaches is by following advice on dosage, avoid dependence on painkillers and report any side effects to your doctor. 


What can you do if you have a headache?

If you have a headache, it is important that you have had adequate food, water, exercise, rest from stimuli such as computers and sleep. If you haven’t had enough of these things then try to make changes to your lifestyle to prioritise this. 

 If you are very stressed or anxious seek ways in order to help reduce and manage these feelings – you can see a health professional such as your GP, psychologist or use some de-stressing apps (see our blog on stress management - https://www.osteo4families.com.au/osteopathy-blog-admin/2019/6/19/stress-why-do-we-need-to-manage-it-how-can-stress-affect-us-how-do-i-manage-my-stress). 

 Other things you can do at home include placing a heat pack around your neck and shoulders or having a rest. Medications may be helpful but you should get advice from your doctor or pharmacist about any medications taken.  

 What can an Osteo do??

When you visit an osteopath with neck pain or headaches, after asking questions to understand the complaint and assessing how your neck moves and looking for any restrictions, your osteopath will be able to discuss with you what the most likely cause of the headaches are and what may be contributing.

 The Osteopath then may recommend a treatment plan with hands on techniques to address the structures in the neck, to improve the restrictions and tightness in the muscles and joints to reduce the neck and shoulder’s contribution to the headache. 

 You may also be given techniques or advice on how to change lifestyle factors such as stress, workplace setup and ergonomics and exercises to improve strength, posture and reduce restrictions. 

If you have any of the following symptoms with a headache which is not normal for you please see you GP or other trusted health professional: Changes in vision, hearing,  balance, if vomiting relieves the headache, you have a new headache before 20 years of age or after 50 years old, change in sensation in your face or arms or fever with a headache for an unknown reason. It is also important to get a headache checked out if the headache is getting worse and you don’t know why, or you have a new headache which is unusual for you.

There are many more headaches that those mentioned here, including headaches from eye strain, eating too much chinese food or hot dogs, medication headaches, jaw and teeth headaches. 

Because there are so many types of headaches and most often more than one contributing factor, if you are suffering from headaches seek medical advice from your GP, Osteopath or trusted health professional. 

Book online with one of our Osteopaths (https://osteo4families.cliniko.com/bookings#location) or call us on 0416 161 411 to book or ask any questions.


Foot notes: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/headache

Written by Mariella Berry