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What are the symptoms of headaches?

A man is rubbing his temples because he has a headache.
Headaches among the general adult population are extremely common with nearly 75 percent of adults around the world experiencing at least one headache per year. They do not discriminate based on age, gender, or race. Pain and other headache symptoms vary in intensity and frequency as well as may be caused by a number of things. New onset of headache pain or chronic headaches can significantly impact a person’s school, work, and social life. Luckily, treatment options are available for quick, long-lasting relief without the need for daily over-the-counter or prescription medications.

Headaches are categorized into two main categories. However, there are more than 150 types of headaches each with symptoms varying in intensity, frequency, and areas affected. Headaches are categorized as primary or secondary based upon the involvement of another medical condition.

Primary headaches

A primary headache is a type of headache not directly related to or due to another medical condition. There are four commonly reported types of primary headache including:

Tension headaches

Tension headaches, the most common type of headache, occur due to increased stress, insufficient sleep, and tension within the muscles. It is most often accompanied by bilateral pain in the head (occurring on both sides) and is persistent pain. Tension headaches are often mild in severity and are relieved by over-the-counter medication. Routine activities like bending over to pick something up off of the floor or walking may worsen tension headaches.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches, the most severe type of primary headache, are accompanied by intense stabbing pain or a burning sensation near the eyes or behind one eye without changing sides. These types of headaches present with severe pain on one side of the head, a throbbing sensation, and may cause swelling of the affected eyelid, swelling in the forehead, or congestion.


Migraines often present with moderate to severe pain, nausea and vomiting, a pounding or throbbing pain that can last several days, as well as increased sensitivity to noises, lights, and smells. People living with migraines often experience significant mood changes due to the severity of symptoms.

Daily persistent headaches

Daily persistent headaches are a constant type of headache, often producing pain on both sides of the head, with little to no relief from medication.

Secondary headaches

A secondary headache is a type of headache directly related to or caused by another medical condition such as:
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Diseases of blood vessels in the brain
Frequent overuse of medication
Sinus congestion
Whiplash injuries from a vehicle accident               
A secondary headache is a type of headache directly related to or caused by another medical condition such as:
A headache accompanied by weakness, sudden imbalance, paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, seizures, and vision changes
A headache with shortness of breath, a rash, fever, or stiff neck
Headaches accompanied by nausea and vomiting that do not get better with medication
A headache occurring after a type of trauma or injury to the head including blunt force trauma to a whiplash injury

What causes a headache?

A headache is a common type of medical condition affecting millions of people around the world and is frequently the cause of missed school, work, or social activities with friends and family. Headaches often cause pain in the face and head that varies in severity depending on the type of headache and cause.

Headache pain occurs as a result of signals communicating with the brain, blood vessels, and the thousands of nerves surrounding the brain. Though the exact mechanism is not known, nerves within the head that control muscles and blood vessels are activated, causing irritation that sends painful sensations to the brain and throughout the affected area.

What triggers a headache or migraine?

Headaches may be caused by many different contributing factors or triggers, such as:
Changes in diet           
Inadequate sleep
Whiplash injury
Emotional stress
Anxiety, depression, or mood changes                     
Medication overuse
Poor posture, causing neck or back strain
Changes in weather
Traumatic injury

How are headaches diagnosed?

If you have been experiencing pain in the face or head that occurs often or is accompanied by excruciating pain, seek medical attention from your primary health provider. Your physician will begin by conducting a physical exam, obtaining a detailed medical history, and asking a few questions regarding the symptoms you are feeling.

Your doctor may ask what type of pain you are experiencing, the frequency headaches occur, how long each headache lasts, if there is anything that you do, eat, or drink that worsens or triggers a headache, and if you are experiencing an increase in stress or decrease in sleep. Once a diagnosis has been made on the type of headache, treatment options are evaluated to determine what meets your specific needs.
A man holds an icepack on his forehead because he has a very bad headache.

How are headaches treated?

Treatment Options

Many physicians treat headaches with medication as a first-line defense. However, this can lead to medication dependence, overuse, or the body becoming immune due to prolonged use. Less conventional treatment for headaches, such as the below, may provide long-term relief through:


This allows a person to learn healthy coping mechanisms and techniques in regard to stressful situations as well as help them learn ways to naturally reduce anxiety and depression.

Relaxation techniques

Yoga, meditation, or light exercise relieve tension and soothe the mind.

Chiropractic care

A chiropractor can naturally relieve pain through various methods, such as adjustments to reduce strain on targeted areas, education on lifestyle changes that can reduce headache frequency, massage therapy, and more.

Can a chiropractor help with headaches?

Chiropractic care offers a natural solution to many common health conditions like headaches and general aches and pains. Rather than masking symptoms with medication, the expert doctors at Accident Care Chiropractic strive to identify the root problem and formulate an individualized plan of care to meet the needs, budget, and lifestyle of each patient.

Our team specializes in treating injuries related to automotive accidents like whiplash injuries, disc injury, or other disorders relating to the musculoskeletal system. If you or a loved one have been involved in an automobile accident but seems to be physically unharmed, you may have undetected injuries from the impact that will cause pain in the future. The specialists at one of our 15 locations throughout Washington and Oregon can help treat these minor issues now in an effort to prevent long-term or future damage.

Accident Care Chiropractic focuses on relief from your headaches

We provide many services, including manual manipulation, manual adjustment, physical therapy, massage therapy, physiotherapy, and, of course, nutritional counseling, because after all, an unhealthy diet is a contributing risk factor to many diseases. Whether you are experiencing headache pain or are interested in preventative treatment, contact us today to see how our team can help you.

How Can We Help You?

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