Have you ever considered how many different types of headaches exist? You may know about the classic migraine headache but did you know your jaw can be a pain source too? Or that your neck may be referring pain up to your head? In this blog I talk about 4 types of headaches we see in our office and 1 type of headache that is quite rare but serious.

The Different Types of Headaches

Man holding the back of his neck with a cervicogenic headache

1. Cervicogenic Headache

This is where some structure in your neck is referring your pain up into your head. This can be due to the muscle, ligaments, joints, or discs of your upper neck. You may feel the pain the most with certain neck movements or sustained positions held.

2. Migraine Headaches

There are 2 types of migraines, ones with an aura and ones without. An aura is a set of nervous system symptoms that come on before the migraine, also called a prodrome. They can be things like visual or smell changes. The migraine usually starts with a trigger. This can be certain foods like chocolate, wine or cheese, a stressful situation, hormonal changes, ect. It is oftentimes one sided and behind the eye or up into the temple area. They are often described as a pulsating or pounding pain. There is usually some element of nausea, vomiting, light or sound sensitivity.

Woman holding the front of her face while having a migraine headache
Man holding the side of his jaw while seated

3. TMJ Headache

This is where there is irritation to your jaw joint or your chewing muscles leading to feeling pain in the skull. This can be caused by things like clenching or grinding your teeth, stress, a prior accident or trauma, or dental appliances.

4. Tension Headache

This one has a predictable pattern, often described as a band of tightness that wraps around the temple area into the eyes and back of the skull. It is known for being on both sides of the head and there should not be symptoms of a migraine. This is caused by muscle pain like trigger points in upper neck muscles. These can develop due to repetitive poor posture. See my post on workplace ergonomics for more information.

Man holding the sides of his head while having a tension headache

5. Pathologic Headache

This is where there is some kind of non-musculoskeletal cause of the pain that can be life threatening in origin. This can be things like a brain tumor, brain or spinal cord infection, bleeding into the brain, or a stroke. This can present as the worst headache of your life, a new type of headache if you are over 50, or if you had recent head trauma. These are the ones you want to go to the hospital for!

Treatment options:

Taken together, we treat 4 out of these 5 headaches. At our clinic we have a variety of techniques at our disposal to treat them. We utilize chiropractic adjustments such as our upper cervical atlas orthogonal technique or manual adjusting, soft tissue therapy, and rehabilitation exercises. For more information see our blog specifically on chiropractic headache treatment.

If you are suffering from a headache we can help. Come and visit our office in Portland, Oregon. Schedule an appointment online or book an appointment over the phone. Check out our website at eastportlandchiropractor.com for more info. We can help you discover the source of your headache and determine the appropriate steps to treat it.