Headaches: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Everything you need to know about headaches

Most people are familiar with the debilitating and sometimes crippling pain of a headache. Whether you are a chronic headache sufferer or you experience them only occasionally, the discomfort can affect your quality of life. In fact, headaches are the most common form of pain and are one of the major reasons people miss days at work or school and visit the doctor. To complicate things even further, there are many different types of headaches and many different symptoms associated with each type.

Types of Headaches & Symptoms

Cluster Headache

Characterized by pain in and around one eye.

Sinus Headache

Experienced behind the brow bone and the cheekbones.

Migraine Headache

Can cause nausea, pain, visual changes and sensitivity to light.

Tension Headache

Often described as the feeling of a band squeezing the head.

The Most Common Headache

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, affecting one-third of men and over half of women. If you’ve ever had pain or discomfort in your head or neck, and tightness in the muscles around those areas, you have experienced a tension headache. Understanding what causes headaches, and how to treat them, can restore productivity and help many people live full, balanced lives.

What Causes Tension Headaches?

The pain associated with a tension headache often feels like it is happening in the brain but it is actually in the nerves, blood vessels and muscles covering the head and neck. (The brain itself cannot sense pain but it is very efficient at telling you when other parts of your body hurt.)

Tension-type headaches have been linked to a chain of events where muscles in the neck, scalp and upper shoulders tighten. Activities that cause the head to be held in one position for prolonged periods of time—like sitting at a computer or sleeping with your neck in an abnormal position—can cause the vertebrae to misalign and the muscles involved to strain and tighten, irritating the underlying nerves in the neck. These nerves then send warning signals up the muscles in the head that respond by tightening up. This chain reaction of spasmed muscles surrounding your head, neck and shoulders is a tension headache.


What Does A Tension Headache Feel Like?

• Dull (but not throbbing) pressure

• A tight band or vice on the head

• Pain all over and not just in one point or one side

• Worse pain in the scalp, temples or back of the neck and shoulders.

Treatment Options

Since this type of headache is brought on by inflammation of muscles, joints and ligaments, it is important to reduce the inflammation and tension in those areas to treat tension headaches and ideally, prevent them from starting. Home remedies include applying moist heat to the lower neck and shoulders and massaging those areas as well. 

1.Reduce the pressure on the muscles by massaging them. Using a Registered
Massage Therapist is the way to go. RMTs are familiar with the condition and understand the anatomy of the neck and head and can effectively relieve tension on spasmed muscles.

2.Get the cervical spine adjusted to correct the misalignment. That will alleviate the pressure on the nerve that sends signals from the brain to the muscles in the neck, head
and shoulders.

3.Stretching the affected musculature to minimize pressure from the muscles and reduce the vice-type feeling around the head.

Acupressure For Pain Relief

You can also try to put pressure on acupressure points to relieve tension headache pain.

Temple area point just above and below the ear. Apply pressure to the area to relieve the tension in those muscles.

Base of the neck where the muscles attach to the base of the head. Apply pressure at this point to relieve pressure over the forehead.

Point between the thumb and index finger. Apply pressure here to relieve tension from the neck, head and upper back.


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About the Author

Dr. Claudia Machiella

Dr. Claudia Machiella

Dr. Claudia Machiella owns and operates one of the GTA’s leading chiropractic clinics.  Since 2001 Dr. Claudia Machiella has grown and built her practice and has been a Chiropractic advocate in her community.  Most recently she has opened a second location in Vaughan in order to provide increased accessibility to chiropractic so that more people […]

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