With 47% of the total adult population having experienced a headache, there’s a strong chance that at some point in your life you will experience one. Of these headaches, there are hundreds of different types, so it’s important to know what type of headache you have so you can get the most appropriate form of treatment. In order to make headache classification easier, they are divided in categories, and then into sub-categories. Here we will talk mostly about the three most common types of primary headache.
The three main primary headaches are migraines, tension type headaches and trigeminal autonomic cephalgias.
Our Approach to Care
When diagnosing your headache, your healthcare professional will also screen for what we call secondary headaches. These are headaches that are attributed to an underlying disorder, be it an infected of some sort or trauma. If your headaches are severe, sudden in onset, your experiencing a headache for the first time and are over 50, have had a trauma to the head or neck or your headache is accompanied by a fever it is worth going to your GP for an examination.
Migraines are a chronic, episodic condition that tend to last anywhere between 4 and 72 hours. They are often (but not always) accompanied by neurological disturbances called auras (symptoms that come on before the headache begins). You may notice a sensitivity to light, have visual disturbances, experience nausea or all of the above. it’s important to be aware that migraines aren’t curable, however your osteopath can offer lifestyle advice and treatment which may aid in reducing the frequency at which they occur. If you’re experiencing migraines then it’s worthwhile creating a migraine diary so that your osteopath can see some of the potential causes and help you address them.
Tension-type headaches – As the name suggests, tension-type headaches are predominantly caused by an increase in muscular tension in the head and neck. It usually follows a band like distribution across the head, often being felt at the base of the skull and around the forehead. You may also experience discomfort around the eyes, and into the neck and shoulders. These headaches may last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few days. Your osteopath or manual therapist can help ease the symptoms by working into the musculature of the head, neck and shoulders, and can usually be relieved within a couple of sessions.
Trigeminal autonomic cephalgias – this class of headache is by far the most severe, with a 10/10 pain scale but also luckily are relatively rare. They are unilateral (affect one side of the head) and tend to be accompanied by tearing and a runny nose. Whilst your osteopath can help with diagnosis, those with suspected trigeminal autonomic cephalgias should always be referred onto a specialist for confirmed diagnosis and management options.