The cause of headaches varies, which is why it is important to consult your chiropractor, physiotherapist or doctor when you experience severe headaches so that appropriate treatment can be recommended.
Common causes of headaches
There are a number of common causes of headaches, these include:
- Hormones: For women, they can experience severe, migraine like, headaches during ovulation, in the years leading up to menopause and as they get their period.
- Allergic headaches: These are often experienced at the same time as sore eyes and a runny nose
- Eyestrain headaches: The cause of these headaches is from a visual impairment or problem that has not been corrected and therefore the eye endures pain and heaviness
- Hangover: This form of headache is experienced due to alcohol, resulting in nausea and throbbing pain on one side of the head
- Tension: Associated with tightness of the neck or scalp, this type of headache is non-throbbing pain around both sides of the head
- “Ice-cream” headache: Experienced immediately after drinking or eating particularly hot or cold food, this headache involves a sharp pain in the front of the head
- Cluster headaches: This form of headache can be severe pain around one eye resulting in the drooping of the eyelid, nasal congestion and a watering eye. They are commonly experienced more in males
- Migraine: This is a well-known headache that involves severe, throbbing pain that can lead to vomiting, sensitivity to sounds, lights and smells, and cold hands. For some people, before and during the headache they may develop an aura, which can be disturbing, often unbearable, flashing lights and difficulty focusing on blind spots. This can last up to 45 minutes.
- Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ): This type of headache is the result from a problem of the jaw. In some cases, a clicking sound can be heard when the jaw opens
These are other rare and serious causes for headaches, including:
- Brain abscess: This is an infection of the brain that occurs because of broken skull-bone with overlying ear, sinus, skin damage and lung infections. This can cause headaches that also involve convulsions and fevers
- Meningitis: This is an infection of the membranes that are around the brain and spinal cord, causing severe headaches involving a vomiting, a stiff neck, fever and sensitivity to light.
- Brain cancer: Brain cancers cause severe headaches and also involve symptoms like visual disturbances, speech problems, epileptic fits, personality changes, vomiting and weakness in a leg and/or arm.
- Bleeding into the brain (brain aneurysm): This causes a severe and sudden onset of pain, with symptoms including a stiff neck, double vision and a a loss of consciousness.
- Temporal arteritis: This is an inflammation of the blood vessels in the temple and scalp. This causes a burning pain and is most common in those aged 55 years and over.
When to see your doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist
It is recommended that you seek care from one of our Balmain or Dee Why chiropractors or physiotherapists if:
- Your headache seems related to your muscles or joints in the neck
- You can make your headache better or worse with neck movements
- Putting pressure on muscles or joints makes your headache better or worse
It is recommended that you seek medical advice if:
- You have experienced an accident, especially one that results in a head injury
- You have a headache and are also experiencing a stiff neck, sensitivity to light, vomiting and a fever
- You find that you are experiencing a very sudden headache
- You change body positions and your headache gets increasingly worse
- You notice that your headache is leading to the onset of nerve symptoms, such as dizziness and a sudden loss of balance
- You notice that your headache is increasing over several weeks
Managing your headache
If your headache is related to your neck, or upper back then chiropractic is a fantastic way to reduce the pain associated with a headache. However, there are various things your can do yourself to manage your headache.
- Have a sleep in a dark room
- Go for a walk
- Reduce your stress levels and lead a healthy lifestyle.
- Monitor your headache by keeping a headache diary. This diary can include notes on what you have eaten and your hormonal cycle. These notes can help your doctor accurately diagnose your headache and help in detecting what triggers your headaches
- Recommended non-prescription medication, however always read the label and consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions
Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) is a chiropractic and physiotherapy centre of excellence located in Balmain and Dee Why Sydney. We use evidence-based treatments for head and head pain that are supported by the latest research.
You may also be interested in these articles on the head and jaw:
- Cervical myelopathy
- Temporomandibular disorders
- Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)
- About S3C
- Our approach to back pain