Headaches – Which type of headache is it?

If you are suffering from regular headaches the chances are that you regularly use painkillers to help alleviate the pain. You may also be taking anti-inflammatory medication or if you’re getting migraine headaches other exotic combinations of drugs. This headache treatment may help with the symptoms but does not address the underlying cause of the headaches. Fortunately there is another approach that research has shown to be effective for certain types of headache relief.  Chiropractic can offer significant help to certain types of headache.

The key to getting the right treatment is understanding which type of headache you have. It is not always that easy to know as you may have more than one type of headache going on at different times. There are 3 main types of headaches that may respond to gentle conservative care. They are:-

  1. Cervicogenic or spinal headache caused by neck problems
  2. Tension headache caused by tight muscles and/or stress
  3. Migraines

The other serious types of headache are caused by things like internal bleeds, infections and space occupying lesions which need urgent medical care.

The first step in successful treatment for headaches is to identify which sort you have then a programme of treatment can be suggested which may help.

Spinal Headache

Often called cervicogenic headache, in this type the pain is associated with neck pain and pain at the back of the head. Sometimes the muscles in the neck are tender to press. It may cause pain to the forehead, over the eyes or temples too. People often describe a vice like feeling around their head. The pain is often aggravated by certain posture or neck movements. Interestingly it often eases when lying down as the weight of the head does not have to be supported. People with this type of headache often have a history of many years of suffering with it.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most commonly diagnosed type of headache with four out of five people being told that this is the cause of their pain. Tension type headaches are characterised by a frequent, steady, dull ache on both sides of the head which can last for long time. People are able to get on with normal life in spite of mild light and sound sensitivity.

Most doctors think that tension headaches are due to tight muscles in the shoulder, neck or scalp. This has not been shown in the research however. It has been tricky to identify tightness in these muscles in spite of looking quite hard.  It is more likely that stress plays a bigger role that first thought. Stress, from work, daily-life and relationships has been found to be the most common headache trigger.

When we get stressed our adrenal glands release adrenalin which sensitises the pain receptor nerve endings in the body. In addition our central nervous system can become sensitised to on-going pain messages so that the pain persists even after the injury has gone. This is a plausible potential cause of tension headaches. It may also explain why manual therapy has been less successful at treating it. Traditionally tension headaches have been treated with massage, exercises and manipulation but results have been mixed. It might be that a simple switch to de-stressing type exercises and desensitising manipulation and mobilisation might be more effective.

Migraine Headaches

People often mistake a tension headache for a migraine and there are a lot of similarities in including the mechanisms that are thought to cause them. A good way to determine which type you have is to compare the symptoms.

Migraines are characterised by severe, one-sided, throbbing pain, often around one eye. They are often preceded by visual disturbances. They are relatively short lived but disabling often with extreme light and sound sensitivity as well nausea. Exercise tends to make them worse and lying down doesn’t help much.

Chiropractic care has been shown to help migraines (2.). Massage and acupuncture have also been shown to help.

If you would like a free check up to see which type of headache you have then give us a call to make an appointment.



1. Stress and tension-type headache mechanisms. Cathcart et al. Cephalalgia 2010; 30(10): 1250-1267.

2. Manual therapies for migraine: A systematic review. Chaibi A, Tuchin PJ & Russell MB. Journal of Headache & Pain 2011; 12: 127-133.

3. Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report. Gert Bronfort et al Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010, 18:3

Exercises for golf

Many golfers do exercises before golf but are they the right exercises? Often golfers are unintentionally injuring themselves because, rather than being shown what to do they simply copy what everyone else does. Interestingly stretching before a game may actually be harmful to golf performance.It is better to warm the muscles up by gently using them.

Exercises for golf- the warm up

* Start by gently shrugging then rotating the shoulders five times in both directions
* Rotate the wrists in both directions
* Rotate the ankles in both directions
* Rotate the trunk as if doing the hula-hoop
* Paddling the Canoe and shoulder figure 8 (Exercises for Golf)

    It is useful to slowly practice the swing focusing on precision and controling this exercise. In fact in can be harder to swing a golf club slowly than quickly. Practice your swing several times before even approaching a ball.

    Here are a set of simple flexibilty and strengthening exercise that anyone can do to improve golf performance and help prevent injury.

    Exercises for golf- the warm down

    * Push the palms together and push down to stretch the forearm muscles that causes Golfers Elbow.
    * Push the back of the hands together  and push them up to stretch the other forearm muscles
    * Low back side bend stretch
    * Posterior and Anterior shoulder muscle stretch (Shoulder Exercises for Golf)

    Past 40 years old we lose about 1% of our muscle mass every year and our joints stiffen and start to wear. As a result we lose flexibility and strength. These simple golf exercises will help prevent this gradual problem or at least slow it down.

      Exercises for Golf

      Shoulder Exercises for Golf

      Pick a couple of exercises that you like the look of and start slowly. A bit of soreness for a day or two afterwards is normal when you are not used to the exercises. As your strength and flexibility improve build in more exercises until you are doing the lot.  If you feel significant pain then stop. Come in for a check up if you are near us or see you local chiropractor if not.

      For more information:- 7 Tips to Prevent Back Pain in Golfers