Common Causes & Types of Headaches

Headaches are a common condition that most people will experience with different frequencies throughout their lives, and while they aren’t life threatening, they could be a sign of something more serious. A headache can range from simply annoying to downright excruciating. But if you’re experiencing headaches a little too often, it might be a good idea to see your chiropractor.

Chiropractors are specialists in dealing with all sort of neck pain, whether the pain is coming from your neck, feet, back or head. And while they can’t treat all kinds of headaches, a chiropractor can work wonders on migraines and tension headaches. If you’re interested in an assessment of your pain, book an appointment today.

In this article, we’re going to outline the common causes for headaches as well as some of the most frequent varieties.

There are over 100 specific types of headaches, each with slightly different causes and symptoms. But the Mayo Clinic and other experts have grouped nearly the entire headache condition into two main categories: Primary Headaches and Secondary Headaches.

Primary Headaches

The pain difference between primary and secondary headaches is that the primary variety are not caused by underlying medical conditions. And while they aren’t caused by other conditions, the root cause of a primary headaches is a little more difficult to pinpoint, and can vary from person to person.

Tension & Migraine Headaches

Far and away the most common type of headaches that people experience are tension and migraine headaches. These headaches stem from either over-activity or dysfunction of pain sensitive areas like your head and neck. While we can’t be sure about the causes of this kind of headache, we do know that stress, lack of sleep, hunger, caffeine withdrawal, pain medication withdrawal, alcohol and processed foods are known to cause these headaches.

Headaches from Lifestyle Choices

table of beers

Some types of primary headaches can be set off by lifestyle choices. So if you’re experiencing regular headaches, it’s always a good idea to check your lifestyle habits before turning to medication or other treatment. Here are some of the more common lifestyle choices that lead to headaches:

  • Highly processed foods like meats that contain nitrates can cause foot-triggered headaches.
  • Alcohol consumption (not necessarily in excessive amounts).
  • Failing to eat enough or often enough is known to cause hunger headaches.
  • Changing your sleep pattern or just not getting enough sleep is a classic headache source.
  • Consuming nicotine, especially in large amounts, can lead to a nicotine headache.
  • Poor posture when you’re sitting or standing causes tension headaches.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are a very painful variety that can be more painful than migraines. As the name suggests, these headaches come in clusters – temporarily subsiding then retuning on a constant basis. Each headache will last about 30 to 45 minutes, and can occur repetitively on a daily basis.

For reasons not yet understood, cluster headaches can last for weeks or even months, but then they usually cease. Almost like remission, they will completely disappear for months or even years, then show up once again. But an unlucky one in five people who suffer from cluster headaches never get a break, suffering from the condition chronically.

New Daily Persistent Headache

New daily persistent headache (NDPH) is a rarer form of headache that is surrounded by mystery. These headaches come unpredictably, and are able to beat back some of the most effective treatment options we know. Sadly, as an almost invincible type of headache, NDPH can affect people for years without any relief.

NDPH can happen to anybody, although it is more common among women, along with children between the ages 10 and 18. It impacts your brain, but can also produce migraine-like symptoms like light sensitivity, vertigo and nausea. The good news is that this type of headache is rare. With a limited number of studies on NDPH, the ones we do have tell us it affects between 30-100 people out of every 100,000.

Secondary Headaches

man holding his face

Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying medical condition, and are instead a sign of another condition, hence the ‘secondary’. The presence of a secondary headache is a sign that something else is wrong. However secondary headaches aren’t dangerous in themselves. Once the underlying condition has been given proper treatment, the headache should cease as well. Here are a few types of secondary headaches:

Dehydration Headache

A dehydration headache occurs when the body doesn’t get enough fluids, even if it’s just mild dehydration. Along with the headache, you could also experience dizziness, fatigue and dry mouth. The good news is that this kind of headache can be eased by simply drinking water and getting some much needed rest.

Sinus Headache

If you’re suffering from a sinus infection, you may also wind up with a sinus headache. These headaches will disappear once your sinus infection is finished, but if it lasts more than a week it could be more serious. The sinus headache is a little less painful than others, usually feeling like a dull pain behind your forehead, eyes and cheekbones.

Spinal Headache

A spinal headache is the result of a spinal tap, when cerebrospinal fluid leaks out into your body. Common when your lumbar has been punctured, like when you have an epidural, these headaches should go away on their own over time.

Rebound Headache

Formerly known as a “medication overuse headache”, a rebound headache happens when you’re taking too much medication to treat an existing headache. Frequent among people who experience migraines, these headaches can result in a frustrating cycle of headache, medication, then more headaches. When the medication wears off, a new headache returns, and it’s often more intense. The good news is that these headaches are treatable, which usually means stopping the medication and switching to an alternative treatment.

Preventing Headaches

woman drinking water

Nailing down the reason for a headache is not easy, but one of the best ways to try is by precisely recording your lifestyle habits. That may be the best way to find the source. You’ll also want to note the details of your headache, including intensity levels and how long they last. According to Harvard Medical School, here are some of the circumstance you should monitor to find the root cause of your headache:

  • medications
  • diet
  • sleep patterns
  • activities
  • alcohol intake
  • menstrual cycle for women
  • environment
  • stress levels
  • physical problems

A chiropractor can also be a big help when it comes to tension and migraine headaches, the most common type of primary headache. Servicing Chilliwack and the surrounding area, Sardis Chiropractic are experts you can trust, with over 20 years of active practice. Contact us today for an introductory appointment, and start feeling like yourself again:

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