The 3 most common types of headache

According to the International Headache Society, there are over 150 different types of headache

Julie Cai

November 15, 2022

According to the International Headache Society, there are over 150 different types of headaches. As Physiotherapists and Chiropractors, the three most common headaches we see at our Marrickville clinic are cervicogenic, migraine and tension type. They happen to occur more in females, and can be differentiated by their location, type of pain, response to anaesthetic blocks and associated symptoms such as dizziness.

1. Cervicogenic headaches

These occur for 10-20% of all headache types, and can be considered as ‘referred pain’ from the neck as they arise from the cervical musculoskeletal system. They are commonly misdiagnosed as migraines since they occur on one side of the head. However with this kind of headache, the pain stays on one side of the head and doesn’t change sides. The pain is not throbbing or lancinating in nature, and usually starts in the neck. They are also aggravated by neck movements and postures, and present with a limited range of motion in C0-3. Cervicogenic headaches respond well to anaesthetic blocks.

2. Tension headaches

Tension headaches are also known as muscle-contraction headaches. They can feel like a diffuse, mild to moderate pain in the head. People often describe them as a tight band around their head, especially around the front and back. There can also be tenderness in the scalp, neck and shoulders. These types of headaches can be classified either as Episodic or Chronic, meaning they can last from hours up to days at a time.

Unlike cervicogenic headaches, tension type headaches do not respond effectively to anesthetic blocks.

Both of these headaches typically involve structures of the head and neck, such as muscles, joints and fascia. When muscles stay in a shortened state for a period of time, they become ‘tight’ and form trigger points. This can lead to referred pain around the head such as in the picture below.

At the same time, joints at the base of the skull and the neck often become restricted. This affects neck mobility, blood supply, nerves including the Greater Occipital nerve and the Vagus nerve, and pain sensitive structures (meninges) which surround the brain.

3. Migraine headaches

People who suffer from migraine headaches usually experience severe, throbbing, pulsating pain which lasts for hours. It occurs on one side of the head or neck at a time, and can switch sides unlike cervicogenic headaches. They can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, difficulty speaking, extreme sensitivity to light, weakness in the face or one side of the body, visual changes and aura (which can occur during or before a migraine episode).

Unlike cervicogenic headaches, migraines usually do not respond effectively to anaesthetic blocks.

So what can be done about these headaches? There is evidence that chiropractic care, physiotherapy and craniosacral techniques are beneficial in the treatment of these headaches, depending on the cause.

Here at Hyper Health, headaches are a specialty area that our Chiropractors, Massage Therapist and Physiotherapists can treat effectively. Our clinic is located in Marrickville, servicing the Inner West suburbs of Sydney. If you have any further questions about how we can help with your headache, head over to our Contact Us page, or book in now to make an appointment.

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