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The four types of headaches that a chiropractor can help you with

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Headache is a widespread issue that affects approximately 45 million Americans. Frequent headaches can significantly lower your productivity and affect the quality of your everyday life.

There are various kinds of headaches, which differ in both the causes of occurrence and the methods of effective treatment. In this article, we will discover the most common types of headaches, their causes, and the possible ways to prevent them. In particular, we will tell you how chiropractic works to help you with that.

Common causes and types of headaches

Today, doctors can name more than 200 causes of headaches in adults. Here are the most common ones:

  • Sudden changes in hormonal levels;
  • High or low blood pressure;
  • Inflammatory processes in different organs;
  • Ophthalmic issues;
  • Head or spine injuries;
  • High or low blood glucose levels;
  • Infectious diseases;
  • Cervical spine issues.

But headache pain can appear not only because of health issues. It can be the consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle. The provoking factors for headaches may include:

  • Stress, depression, and anxiety;
  • Disturbed diet;
  • Overwork;
  • Excess physical activity.

As we can see, there are many reasons for headaches. To correctly determine the type of headache, you need to understand what provokes it, how intense it is, and the localization of pain.

Now, let’s look through the four most widespread types of headaches.

Cervicogenic headache

Cervicogenic headache affects one side, as a rule. It begins with neck pain or pain in the back of the head. Then it spreads to the frontal and temporal regions. These can ultimately become areas with the maximum concentration of pain. Pain in the arm and shoulder on the same side often accompanies cervicogenic headaches. Changing the side of the headache is uncommon.

Such headache pain may last from several hours to several days. Besides, it often goes in parallel with the following symptoms:

  • Mild photophobia;
  • Intolerance to loud sounds;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Red eyes;
  • Nausea.

What may provoke the occurrence of such a headache? Most often, this is an underlying neck problem. Other causes can include a misalignment in the cervical spine, pressure on the base of the skull, or prolonged uncomfortable head position.


Migraine involves periodic attacks of severe headache pain, often localized in one-half of the head. Disorders in the work of blood vessels in the brain may cause migraines. In many cases, fatigue, depression, irritability, and anxiety occur before the attacks of migraine.

This kind of headache can last from several hours to several days. Needless to say, it often disrupts the usual rhythm of a person’s life.

Here are the key features of migraine pain:

  • One-sided nature;
  • Pulsating character;
  • Occurrence against the background of stress, overexcitation, or hormonal disruptions;
  • Excessive stimulation of the sensory organs (such as bright light, loud sounds, or strong odors) may strengthen the pain;
  • Associated symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

While migraines are less common than other headaches, they are usually much more severe. They are two to three times more common among women than among men. Genetic predisposition may also be relevant, as having a family history of migraine is a common risk factor.

Cluster headache

Cluster headache manifests itself in multiple pain attacks following one after the other. The duration of each episode ranges from 15 minutes to several hours, and their intensity is great. A series of attacks can last for 2-3 months, and then there is a long break.

The epicenter of pain in a cluster headache is in the temple area, extending to the orbit. This kind of headache often goes with other symptoms such as redness of the eyes, lacrimation, and nasal congestion.

Tension headache

Tension headache is perhaps the most common type of headache. The prolonged overstrain of the head, neck muscle tension, and joint irritation are the key factors provoking it. Specifically, the daily habits that cause these pains include poor posture and tech neck when working at a laptop for a long time.

The main symptom of a tension headache is a dull ache on one or both sides of the head. Tension headache duration can vary from half an hour to several days.

Simple ways of headache treatment

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Headache pain may occur at the most inopportune moment. If this is the case, how do you manage it, especially if there is no pain reliever at hand?

Let’s look through the proven ways of headache treatment, free of adverse effects.

A great way to get headache relief is to massage your head, neck, and earlobes. Gentle massage will help distract yourself from pain and improve blood circulation and avoid tension building.

Stuffiness and excess carbon dioxide often provoke headache pain, so ventilating the room won’t hurt.

Putting a cold compress on your forehead for 10-15 minutes is one more way to get headache relief.

The good idea is to ensure yourself a complete rest. Find a calm place and eliminate all sorts of annoying factors. Close the curtains and turn off the lights. Once you do, lie down, close your eyes and try to relax.

Deep breathing exercises may help to saturate the body with oxygen, reduce stress and relieve pain.

Lifestyle habits to prevent headaches

As we have already mentioned before, an unhealthy lifestyle often provokes headache pain—such lifestyle components as nutrition, mental health, and physical activity matter. Let’s see how exactly lifestyle modifications can help in eliminating headaches.

For headache sufferers, certain foods can act as stimulants. These include smoked or canned meat, fast food, dark chocolate, and vegetables high in nitrates, nitrites.

One of the ingredients of these products is tyramine. This is a substance from the group of biogenic amines found in high concentrations in protein products with a long shelf life. It can raise blood pressure as a vasoconstrictor, triggering a headache or migraine attack.

Besides, various food additives (such as flavors, emulsifiers, and glutamate) and preservatives can affect vascular tone, provoking a headache. Semi-finished products often contain such substances.

As for mental health, chronic fatigue, not getting enough sleep, and a stressed nervous system can also aggravate headaches. Therefore, it is crucial to keep a healthy daily routine.

Another way to eliminate headaches is to exercise regularly. Exercises improve blood flow to the brain, muscles, and spine. In general, it has a positive effect on the body and helps to reduce headaches caused by fatigue or tension.

What a chiropractor can do for different types of headaches

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Frequent headaches can significantly affect the quality of everyday life. Luckily, this isn’t something that you have to manage all alone. A professional chiropractor can work with you to define the core reasons for your headache.

A chiropractic doctor can find and distinguish misalignments of vertebrae through a targeted methodology. After examination and collection of anamnesis, a specialist will prepare an individual chiropractic treatment plan for you. Chiropractic adjustments will help restore the proper balance in the spine. This, in turn, will contribute to improving the blood supply to the brain, achieving optimal balance and coordination, and alleviating headaches.

In addition to spinal alignments, a doctor of chiropractic will provide you with a range of valuable recommendations regarding nutrition and exercises.

As we have already mentioned, certain foods may contain substances provoking headaches. Based on this, your chiropractor may recommend limiting or eliminating the consumption of certain foods.

To achieve the best results from chiropractic treatment, a good practice is to combine it with physical exercises. So, your chiropractic doctor can prepare an individual exercise plan for you. These exercises aim to increase endurance, improve joint function, and prevent muscle deterioration.

The underlying cause of each type of headache will be different. Thus, a chiropractor’s approach to managing them will also differ. Let’s see how chiropractic care can help with the kinds of headaches we have defined above.

Chiropractic care for cervicogenic headaches

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Cervicogenic headaches typically begin with one-sided pain that starts at the back of the head and then moves to the front. The same-side shoulder or arm pain often accompanies this kind of headache. Neck pain and injuries may trigger cervicogenic headaches.

As studies show, spinal manipulation can be a working chiropractic therapy option for cervicogenic headaches. During the chiropractic adjustment procedure, a doctor applies a controlled force to a specific joint of your musculoskeletal system. To do this, they can use their hands or a special device. The main focus area of such spinal manipulation is the cervical vertebrae. This manipulation can help improve your spinal function and reduce your stress level.

The next option for managing cervicogenic headaches is joint mobilization. This kind of therapy assumes moving your joints passively. When used for headaches, this kind of headache therapy focuses on the cervical vertebrae.

Deep neck flexion exercises are also good for dealing with cervicogenic headaches. The goal of them is to stretch or strengthen the deep neck flexor muscles​. During these exercises, your muscles and joints should be actively moving. Be sure to perform them under the guidance of your chiropractor doctor.

To perform this exercise, you need to lie flat on the floor before doing a series of chin tucks. After that, you should nod your head. To achieve the best result, make sure to do these muscle contractions in 10-second intervals with 10-second rest breaks.

Chiropractic care for migraines

To deal with migraines, trigger point therapy may come in handy. Neuromuscular massage is such a kind of therapy. Its focus areas include the trigger points in the head, back, cervical vertebrae, and shoulders. A chiropractor doctor may help you relieve pressure from compressed nerves through neuromuscular massage. These nerves are responsible for transferring messages about pain to the brain.

A multidisciplinary approach is another option for managing migraine. This is a holistic approach that involves work in several directions:

Chiropractic care for tension headaches
Episodic tension headaches are widespread among adults. They can result from muscle strain due to prolonged tension.

A multidisciplinary approach may help alleviate chronic tension headaches.

Another form of chiropractic therapy that may be useful is low-load craniocervical mobilization. This type of therapy offers a softer effect on the joints than spinal manipulation. To help relieve headaches, the chiropractor works on the neck joints, allowing the neck segments to move rhythmically. This type of therapy also often includes stretching.

Chiropractic care for cluster headaches

To help alleviate these headaches, spinal manipulation may come in handy. The root cause is often an issue with the nerve that travels through the spine. Pinching, compression, or misalignment of the trigeminal nerve can cause headaches.

The doctor will return the vertebra interfering with the trigeminal nerve to a proper position through special chiropractic adjustments. This should help neurons efficiently travel through the nerve and re-establish proper connections throughout the body.


Headaches are one of the most common disorders that people around the globe are facing every day. Different kinds of headaches have different causes and require different approaches to their elimination. Whether you experience headaches occasionally or you have been suffering from them for years, chiropractic techniques may help provide relief from headaches. This is a safe, free-of-prescription drugs way to alleviate and prevent headaches.

Along with spinal manipulations, professional chiropractors apply a multidisciplinary approach. Such an approach can include physical therapy, exercises, relaxation and stress management techniques, and nutrition recommendations.

Ready to experience headache relief and holistic wellness? Reach out to one of Austin’s top chiropractors today to schedule an appointment and start your journey toward a pain-free, healthier life.