Headaches or Migraine
Article by John Miller
Headache or Migraine
As a headache or migraine sufferer, you'll know how disruptive and inconvenient a severe headache or migraine attack can be. Not only does it impact on you, but also your immediate family and friends.
Accurate diagnosis is important to guide the correct treatment and management of headache disorders. Head pain can have many causes, not just migraine. Correctly identifying the cause will lead to better treatment.
What's Causing Your Headache or Migraine?
At PhysioWorks, we have a special interest in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of migraine and headache disorders. In particular, we focus on the diagnosis and treatment of neck headache and jaw headache. Your headache physiotherapist will be able to assist your diagnosis and migraine or headache source.
In a small percentage of patients there is unfortunately a sinister cause of your head pain, which should be thoroughly investigated. These can include brain tumours, aneurysm, meningitis and other systemic illnesses. Please seek the advice of your health professional.
Historically any headache that was of a "throbbing" nature was thought to involve the blood vessels within the head was thought to be a "migraine".
Any headache that was "not throbbing" was labelled a "tension-type headache", despite there being no evidence of increased tension in the muscles of the scalp or forehead.
Researchers have luckily improved our knowledge of headache sources. There are now thought to be over 300 causes of headaches and migraine.
Luckily, most fall into three categories:
Different Headache-Migraine Types May Co-Exist
Yes! You can simultaneously suffer one, two or more types or headache/migraine.
One type may cause another. For example, a painful neck can cause an increase in muscular tension, which will increase your blood pressure. In this scenario, you would be suffering a neck headache + tension headache + migraine!
In our experience, finding the primary source of your headache/migraine is the key to successful management.
Primary or Secondary Headache
Of the over 300 causes of headache and migraine, the majority of headaches are diagnosed as Tension-Type, Migraine and Neck Headache. These are the most common headache causes and interestingly, can co-exist.
Headaches are classified by the International Headache Society as Primary or Secondary.
Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying problem, and can include post-whiplash headache, neck headache, and drug withdrawal headache. In other words, the headache is a symptom of something else being wrong rather than the cause itself. Treatment for secondary headache involves treating the source (eg upper neck joints) rather than the headache symptoms.
It is important to point out that many headache sufferers may suffer multi-source headaches. For example, a Migraine sufferer may simultaneously experience a Tension Type Headache and Neck Headache. Treatment varies depending in the symptoms and headache source.
Correct Diagnosis is Vital
Treatment success depends entirely on an accurate diagnosis. Migraine medications may not ease Tension Type, Cluster or Neck Headaches. Likewise, neck treatment will only ease the neck component of a Migraine.
Common Causes of Headaches or Migraine
What’s Causing Your Headaches or Migraine?
Headache - Migraine Questionnaire
Your physiotherapist or doctor may recommend that you complete a Headaches - Migraine Questionnaire that will assist in your headache classification, diagnosis and treatment. If you complete this questionnaire and present the results to your physiotherapist or doctor it could help to fast track your diagnosis and treatment.
Free Online Questionnaire: Is it a Headache or Migraine?
Headache RED FLAGS!
You MUST thoroughly investigate any Red Flags!
We urge you to check with your doctor or physiotherapist to investigate further if your headaches have any of the following characteristics:
- New or different headache to your normal type.
- “Thunderclap” type headache.
- Your “worst headache ever”!
- Signs of neurological complications e.g. motor weakness, memory loss.
- New headache onset over the age of 50 years.
- Headache associated with systemic symptoms e.g. weight loss, fever.
If you have any of the above Red Flags symptoms, we strongly recommend that your inform your physiotherapist or doctor immediately.
Headaches & Migraine FAQs
Common Headaches & Migraine Treatments
At PhysioWorks, we have a special interest in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of migraine and headache disorders. In particular, we focus on the diagnosis and treatment of neck headache and jaw headache.
Your headache physiotherapist will be able to assist your diagnosis and migraine or headache source and then provide appropriate headache treatment options.
Headache Treatment Options
Helpful Products for Headaches & Migraine
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