There any many different types of headaches and it is very important to diagnose the type first in order to find the most effective treatment.
The most common diagnosis for a very intense headache is a migraine. A migraine is a type of headache where the blood flow to your brain is affected temporarily. This is a type of headcahe which is often mis-diagnosed due to an overlap with other headache types.
When you get the ‘aura’ that is when the blood flow to your brain decreases and depending on which part is affected the ‘aura’ will be different for all sufferers. Some patients will see spots or flashes, others will get numbness in the face or even ringing in their ears. On top of this nausea and sensitivity to light are a usual event at the same time. At some stage the brain realises that there is an insufficiency of blood supply and it over-reacts. It widens your blood vessels too much and the extra blood rushing in will cause distention of pain sensitive structures in the head and causes pain. Triggers for migraines can be any stimulus which upsets your body chemistry or your nervous system. These range from foods to sounds to smells or stress. In general it is best to avoid your triggers. Osteopathy can lend a hand with decreasing the symptoms which tend to take place at the same time - such as neck and shoulder tightness - which can be a result of the pain, but we cannot ‘fix’ a migraine. The only real relief in these cases is avoiding your triggers or taking migraine medication.
The tension headaches category has been the lost and found box of the headache world for a long time. It’s where any headache which isn’t very severe and has a ‘tight band’ feeling around the head gets pushed into. Anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medication will often have a temporary relieving effect.
Causes for tension headaches range from metabolic ones - such as low blood sugar - to tight muscles - to colds - to emotional stress or smoking. In any case, it is actually important to figure out exactly which subtype of tension headache you are in fact getting and to address the causes. Most commonly neck muscles or joints will be the cause for what is most often considered a tension headache, but it may not always be the case. We have described other more specific types of headaches on this page - feel free to check out the other categories.
Neck related headaches - also called cervicogenic headaches - are very often mistaken for migraines by many medical practitioners because many symptoms are the same. These headaches can involve nausea because a large nerve which originates at the very top of the neck innervates your digestive system. When this nerve gets irritated your will feel nauseous. You can get mild visual changes as a result of a particular nerve bundle towards the top of the neck getting irritated which also innervates aspects of your eyes. Finally you can also get tingling in the face or arms as a result of the tight muscles in your neck.
The actual headache comes from a rather confusing loop which your neck nerves make as they go into the processing centres of the brain. They crossover with a big nerve that goes into your face and the most common pain pattern with this sort of headache is an arc of pain from the upper neck over the side of your head and behind the eyes on the affected side - or both sides. The key difference from a migraine is that we can do a clinical test for this sort of headache and reproduce your familiar pain whereas with a migraine this is not possible. Often pain medication has a very minimal effect on this sort of headache.
Sinus headaches can result from a number of different conditions affecting them, the most common being an infection. If there is mucus running from your nose, the colour of it will indicate what sort of problem you have. Green or yellow can indicate a bacterial infection, whereas clear can indicate either a viral infection or an allergic response. If your nose is running the best step is to go to your doctor and check what is going on, as that cause needs to be addressed. Osteopathic treatment can help with emptying the sinuses but alone it cannot fix the cause completely in a lot of cases.
The bones which make up the sides of your sinuses all possess a very small capacity for motion and as such can become 'stuck' like any other joint. With cranial osteopathy we can gently get these bones moving again as the core cause is being addressed so that we can speed up the process. At the same time, we would generally also look at getting your jaw and upper neck moving as they too have an impact on overall cranial motion. As medical care often involves the use of antibiotics for infections - we can also suggest other helper aides which can minimise the side-effects that such medication can have on you while the infection is combated. In the case of allergic sinus issues, the cause can be anything from an 'upset' immune system to a food intolerance. In such cases we may need to consider your diet or address your organ movements by means of visceral osteopathy.
This type of headache is very varied. Many of the neck and upper shoulder muscles can send pain into various parts of the head rather than hurting locally. For example, the muscles at the top of your neck can send pain into the back of your head. Muscles along the top of your shoulders can send pain into your temples. And so on. These types of headaches can easily be tested in clinic. If we find the correct muscle - it will give you your familiar headache - but only temporarily. Then we fix it.
A variety of anti-inflammatories and pain relieving medication can have a temporary effect on these headaches, but they usually come back as soon as the muscles in question are loaded again. Other muscles which can cause facial and head pain are located around the jaw joint. These muscles will often give the impression of headache, sinus pain or even a toothache. It’s reasonably easy for you to distinguish these sorts of headaches from the others because they will get worse when you eat, chew, sing or otherwise use your jaw and mouth.