Over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic recurring headaches. If you are one of the millions, have you identified what type of headache you regularly suffer from? What treatment strategies have you employed to manage your headaches? In this blog article, I will identify and describe some of the common types of headaches as well as effective treatment and management strategies.


boy with a headache trapped in a light bulb
This primary headache disorder most everyone is familiar with

How do I know it’s a migraine?
Migraines are often associated with an aura, or a nervous system cue that a migraine headache is going to occur. These cues most commonly include visual phenomena such as bright or flashing light, tingling in the arms or legs, or difficulty speaking. When the migraine attack occurs, it usually will last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated. Symptoms include: pain in the head that is pulsing or throbbing, sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting, and blurred vision.

What causes a migraine?

  • Central nervous system disorder – Migraine episodes may be triggered by an underlying disorder inhibiting the bodies ability to appropriately adapt to negative stimuli.
  • Vascular problem – Irregularities seen in the blood vessels of the brain may make the brain susceptible to vasoconstriction (constriction or narrowing of blood vessels). This constriction can induce migraine symptoms.
  • Genetics – Having a family member, particularly an immediate family member, who struggles with migraine headaches makes you more susceptible to having this condition.
  • Chemical abnormalities – Lots of chemicals within the brain including serotonin and glutamate play a role in healthy brain functioning and the brains ability to adapt. Irregularities or abnormalities of these chemicals may be responsible for migraine symptoms.

What can trigger a migraine?

  • Sensory stimulation including bright lights, loud noise, or particular scents.
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Foods that are high in sodium, are aged or are processed
  • Stress
  • Extreme physical stress or exertion
  • Irregular sleep patterns

Tension headache 

hands holding the word stress
The most common type of headache and is often referred to as a stress headache

How do I know it’s a tension headache?
Tension headaches tend to last from 30 minutes to a couple of days. They’re described as a band-like pain or pressure around the forehead or at the back of the head and neck. The pain is described as throbbing and does not affect balance, vision, or strength.

Who gets tension headaches?
Up to 80% of the adult U.S. population suffers from tension headaches on occasion, with approximately 3% of the population suffering through these headaches daily. This type of headache is not genetic and is often induced by stress, fatigue, hunger, poor posture, and inadequate sleep.

Cluster Headaches

man's face with lightening bolt
Relatively uncommon and characterized by short clusters of 1-3 headaches per day

How do I know it’s a cluster headache?
Cluster headaches are almost always one-sided and very intense. Those people who suffer from cluster headaches will describe the pain as burning or piercing and have difficulty sitting still. The location of pain is behind one eye and can radiate to the forehead, temple, nose, or cheek. While the duration of the headache is short, usually 30-90 minutes, they tend to recur several times throughout the day.

Who gets cluster headaches?
Cluster headaches affect less than one in 1,000 people. They typically start before the age of 30 and are more common in men than in women.

What causes cluster headaches?
Cluster headaches are activated by the aberrant firing of the 5th cranial nerve at the base of the brain. This pathway, referred to as the trigeminal-autonomic reflex pathway, is responsible for the sensation of the face. When activated, the trigeminal nerve causes eye pain, eye tearing and redness, nasal congestion, face pain, and head pain.

I experience headaches, what can I do?

Chiropractic care has a strong track record of providing sustainable relief for many different types of headaches. Research conducted by Duke University, as well as research published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) demonstrate strong efficacy of care when utilizing chiropractic to treat headaches. Stop taking harmful medications and find relief with safe and holistic care that is research-proven to work. Processed foods filled with chemicals, preservative, and flavor enhancers alter the central nervous system and are often responsible for triggering many forms of headaches. If you suffer from frequent headaches try avoiding processed foods and stay as organic as possible. To have an assessment of the underlying causes of your symptoms schedule an appointment with our Naturopathic Doctor or one of our Chiropractors.To read more about utilizing chiropractic treatment for headaches click here.

-Dr. Kyle McKenzie