Four different types of headaches and what you can do to treat them
Headaches are one of the most common health complaints in the world. There are many different kinds of headaches and treatments, and you don’t need to let a headache dominate your day. Read our comprehensive guide to different kinds of headaches and how to treat them.
1. Migraine Headaches
Often migraines occur unilaterally (on one side of the head). The pain is throbbing and pulsing and worsens if you attempt to move around. Sometimes migraines are associated with vomiting and high sensitivity to light, smells and sounds. This moderate to severe headache can sometimes last for up to 3 days.
Migraines are triggered for many reasons:
- Women experience more migraines than men. That’s because they are linked to fluctuations of the hormone oestrogen in the body. For this reason, migraines often happen before or during a period, during pregnancy and menopause. Also medications that regulate oestrogen like oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy may worsen migraines.
- Certain food and drinks are known triggers. For example salty, processed foods, cheese, foods containing MSG, coffee and alcohol.
- Some people get migraines from being exposed to sunlight, loud noise, strong smells, smoke and other environmental triggers.
- Changes to your sleeping patterns and jetlag can also bring on a migraine, along with physical exertion.
- Avoid certain food, drink or environmental stimuli that has triggered a migraine in the past.
- Avoid using medications that have known side-effects of causing migraines
- Dedicate time to relaxation, and ensure you get enough sleep and eat a nutritious diet.
- Apply a cold or hot compress to your head and lay down in a darkened room.
2. Sinus Headache
Sinus headaches can be brought on by allergies, a virus or bacterial infection of the ears, nose or throat. The pain from this headache is normally located behind the eyes, across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, along the forehead, or along the top teeth. The pain is unpleasant and could be described as a dull pressure within the skull. Sudden movements or exercise can make the pain feel worse.
How to minimise a sinus headache
- Steam: Dry air can cause pressure in the head and throbbing pain. So take a hot shower and breathe in the air.
- Saline flush or nasal sprays: These hydrate dry and sore nasal cavities and sinuses.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
- Drink water: Being dehydrated can contribute to a sinus headache, so drink more water.
- Try gentle exercise like yoga.
3. Tension headache
Tension headaches are experienced as a vice-like sensation of pressure in the skull. The pain of this can be mild to moderate and generally isn’t as intense as a migraine. There isn’t any associated pulsing or throbbing. Unlike with migraines, there is no associated nausea, vomiting and increase in pain associated with movement of the body.
Physiotherapy from Maroubra Road Physiotherapy can be highly effective in treating tension headaches. Muscle tension in the neck and head may be causing your headache. The team at Maroubra Road Physio will be able to help you in several ways.
- Sore neck: We can help with gentle joint mobilisation and massage techniques, taping and dry needling.
- Tight and overactive muscles: We can provide help with stretching advice, massage and other soft tissue release techniques.
- Posture correction: We can also provide guidance on posture awareness, along with advice on neck dysfunction and postures to avoid.
4. Cluster headache:
Typically a cluster headache occurs on one-side of the head. However the affected side may change from headache to headache. The pain of a cluster headache is unmistakeable. It’s an extremely severe stabbing and piercing pain. This is relatively short-lived and lasts between 10 minutes to 3 hours and then subsides. However, the headache can recur several times over the course of a day or week.
How to minimise a cluster headache
The Migraine Trust recommend a number of preventative treatments on their website. Discuss these options with your doctor.
See a doctor about these kinds of headaches:
Diagnosing and treating a headache is not an exact science. The exact reasons for a headache vary extensively. However most headaches are not life-threatening and resolve themselves by having adequate rest, looking after yourself and taking mild painkillers.
Although rare, a headache may be associated with a more serious medical condition. If you do have a headache that is associated with the following, it may indicate something more serious is going on. You should be seen by your doctor.
- A severe thunderclap type of headache.
- Symptoms of a neurological condition: Motor weakness, memory loss, confusion and behavioural changes.
- A headache associated with the symptoms of meningococcal infection: a stiff neck, fever, nausea, aching muscles, lack of appetite.
- Severe and sudden weight loss, nausea and fever.
- A headache that has arisen out of a blunt force trauma to the head or body, e.g. a car accident or fall.
Maroubra Road Physiotherapy will be able to advise you on viable treatment options for certain kinds of headaches. In the case where the cause of your headache can’t be treated by physiotherapy, the team will direct you towards other specialists who may be able to help with diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Headaches shouldn’t be endured for the long-term and Maroubra Road Physiotherapy are always here to help. Book an appointment today!