Although all headaches cause pain, the reasons for a headache can be quite different. Tension headaches occur when muscles in the neck and scalp become tight. Cervicogenic headaches are actually caused by a problem in the neck, like a misaligned neck vertebra (spine bone). Sinus headaches – which often coexist with allergies and sinus infections – result from inflammation of the membranes in the sinus cavities. Cluster headaches tend to affect only one eye or one side of the head and occur several times a day.
Migraines are unlike most headaches in that they are actually a collection of neurological symptoms, one of which is a headache. In most cases, the pain of a migraine is severe and occurs on one side of the head. Unlike other headaches, migraines often have specific triggers, like foods, and may be accompanied by flashing lights or blurred vision. In addition to the headache, migraine symptoms can include symptoms much like a stroke including slurred speech, coordination and balance problems, and mental confusion. A severe migraine can even cause numbness and tingling in the face or extremities or temporary paralysis.
The odds are high that genetics play a role in headaches, as they tend to run in families. Women are more likely to develop all kinds of headaches than men, especially migraines. Sleep deprivation, sleep disturbances (like insomnia), or sleep apnea may make headaches more severe or more frequent. Mental health conditions may be connected to headaches in some way. People with depression, bipolar disorders, and anxiety are more likely to have daily or at least frequent headaches.
Chiropractic treatment can certainly make a difference in cervicogenic headaches caused by misalignments in the neck. Some tension headaches may also be due to neck problems and may respond to chiropractic treatment. Chiropractic can also improve the health of the nervous system, which may be why it helps migraines in some people. Adjunctive treatments like massage and acupuncture may also help headaches.