Headaches or Migraine

john miller physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

migraine

What is the Cause of Your 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 a relentless headache or pulsing migraine impact on you, but also your immediate family and friends. With over 300 potential cause of your headache, an accurate diagnosis is important to guide the correct investigations, treatment and management of your headache disorder.

Head pain can have many causes, not just a migraine. Correctly identifying the cause will lead to better treatment. I will explain some of the differentiating diagnostic criteria later in this article, but the let's prioritise the small group of headache sufferers who do a have a significant reason to seek prompt medical attention and further investigations of their headache source.

When Should You Be Concerned about a Headache?

In a small percentage of patients there is unfortunately a sinister cause of your head pain, which should be thoroughly investigated. We call these Red Flags because they can be urgent and important signs of more sinister underlying conditions such as brain tumours, aneurysm, stroke, meningitis and other systemic illnesses. If you experience nay of the following symptoms, please seek the urgent advice of your healthcare professional.

headache red flags

You MUST thoroughly investigate any Red Flags!

Please check with your doctor to investigate further if your headaches have any of the following characteristics. Your headache is:

  • History your worst ever headache or a different headache to your usual.
  • Exertion triggers your headache (eg exercise, cough, sneeze or sex).
  • Age is greater than 50 years.
  • Despite treatment your headache persists.
  • Acute onset.
  • Central nervous system findings  e.g. motor weakness, memory loss, slurred speech.
  • HIV or other immune system compromise
  • fEver or other systemic symptoms e.g. weight loss, rash.

If you have any of the above HEADACHE Red Flags symptoms, we strongly recommend that you consult your doctor immediately.

Less Urgent & Severe Headache Types

Fortunately the vast majority of headaches do not require urgent medical investigation and should respond positively to treatment depending upon an accurate diagnosis.

What is Causing Your Headache or Migraine?

Historically the diagnosis of headaches and migraine was based on whether or not your head pain involved pulsatile "throbbing" or not. 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.

Headache & Migraine Research

Researchers have luckily improved our knowledge of headache sources. Things have changed and will continue to change as researchers and healthcare experts improve their diagnostic criteria and categorisation. As we currently stand, there are now thought to be over 300 causes of headaches and migraine. That's a lot more than the two original options! The numerous potential causes can obviously make it very confusing to diagnose and treat.

Of the over 300 causes of headache and migraine, the majority of headaches are diagnosed as migraine, tension-type headache or neck headache. These are the most common headache causes and interestingly, they can also co-exist.

Specific information

What is a Primary or Secondary Headache?

Headaches are classified by the International Headache Society as Primary or Secondary.

Primary headaches are not related to any other problem and include migraines, tension type headaches and cluster headaches.

Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying problem, and can include a post-whiplash headache, neck headache,  and drug withdrawal headache. "Ice cream headache", for example, is a secondary headache caused by extreme cold within your mouth. In other words, a secondary headache is a symptom of something else being wrong rather than the cause itself. Treatment for a secondary headache involves treating the source eg loosen some stiff upper neck joints or stop eating ice cream!

Multi-Source Headache

what causes headache

It is also 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 will obviously vary depending upon your specific symptoms and headache source. Please consult with your healthcare practitioner for an accurate diagnosis and treatment pathway.

Neck & Jaw Headache

At PhysioWorks, we have a special interest in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a migraine and headache disorders. In particular, we focus on the diagnosis and treatment of a neck headache and jaw headache. Your headache physiotherapist will be able to assist your headache or migraine diagnosis and point you in the appropriate health practitioner if required.

Specific information

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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.

Your Free Online Questionnaire:

headache migraine causes

Online Quiz: Headache or Migraine?

Headache - Migraine

Common Causes

General Information

Specific Migraine - Headache Types

Migraine - Headache Questionnaires

Neck Conditions

Jaw Conditions

Systemic Conditions

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Common Headaches & Migraine Treatments

At PhysioWorks, we have a special interest in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a migraine and headache disorders. In particular, we focus on the diagnosis and treatment of a neck headache and jaw headache. Your headache physiotherapist will be able to assist your headache or migraine diagnosis and point you in the appropriate health practitioner if required.

Specific information

Headache Treatment Options

  • Early Injury Treatment
  • Avoid the HARM Factors
  • What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
  • Acupuncture and Dry Needling
  • Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
  • Scapular Stabilisation Exercises
  • Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Proprioception & Balance Exercises
  • Medications?
  • Ergonomics
  • Posture Correction
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Brace or Support
  • Deep Neck Stabilisation Exercises
  • Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
  • Heat Packs
  • Joint Mobilisation Techniques
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Neurodynamics
  • Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
  • Prehabilitation
  • Strength Exercises
  • Stretching Exercises
  • Supportive Taping & Strapping
  • TENS Machine
  • Video Analysis
  • Yoga
  • Helpful Products for Headaches & Migraine

    Headaches

    Headaches & Migraine FAQs

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  • What are the Common Adolescent Spinal Injuries?
  • What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
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  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Good Standing Posture?
  • What is Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What is the Correct Way to Sit?
  • What to expect when you visit PhysioWorks?
  • What's the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • Why Kinesiology Tape Helps Reduce Swelling and Bruising Quicker
  • Call PhysioWorks

    Book Online

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    Last updated 31-Mar-2018 06:19 PM

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