Common Headaches

Common Headache

In general, headaches are amongst the most common health complaints in the modern world.
Various studies performed in Australia as well as America and the UK state the frequency of
headaches to be approximately seventy five percent of the population suffering one or more headaches in any one year.
Includes Tension Headaches & Myofascial referred pain.

The Common headache includes those headaches secondary to common conditions which are readily treatable, as well as those which are frequently reported. The common headache is usually considered to be a benign problem which is self limiting, but can include more serious conditions which require urgent medical intervention. Headache severity is usually less in common headaches than Cluster headaches or Migraines but duration and frequency may vary. It is also important to note that the severity of headaches is not a good indicator for whether or not they are serious. Persistent mild headaches for example, can be indicative of more severe underlying conditions.

Common headaches involve pain in or around the head and face regions on either or both sides with the pain quality varying from an ‘ache’ to deeper ‘boring’ pain and even ‘pounding’. The pain can be focused around a particular area (ie: Sinusitis) or widespread around the head (ie:Tension headache). Other symptoms such as visual changes, nausea, sensory changes do not usually accompany common headaches but may accompany Migraine and other conditions.

In Australia as in most western countries, headaches are amongst the most common reasons for consulting healthcare experts. A higher incidence of headaches has been reported in women as opposed to men, and in higher socioeconomic groups. In the USA approximately 150 million working days are lost each year due to headaches. The range of causes for the common headache varies from sinus, dental and neck problems to eye problems and metabolic and hormonal disorders.

Headaches secondary to common causes are referred to in the literature as ‘secondary’ headaches and may occur as a consequence of a wide variety of disorders and conditions.

An abbreviated list includes some of the following:

Neck problems (see cervicogenic headaches this section)

Sinus conditions (see head rollover on homepage)

Eye conditions (see head rollover on homepage)

Dietary triggers and eating habits (see head rollover on homepage)

Dental and Jaw problems (see head rollover on homepage)

Ear, Nose and Throat problems (see head rollover on homepage)

Frequently reported headaches which have uncertain cause(s) include

Tension headaches- aching or tightness/ pressure/ constriction of variable intensity frequency and duration about the head region..(see tension headaches-below)

Myofascial pain syndromes and Fibromyalgia. (see myofascial pain- below)

Other types of head pain including- Cluster headaches, Migraines and Neuralgias are not considered to be in the same category as common headaches and are placed in their own categories.

Tension Headache

Tension headache has been defined by the Ad Hoc Committee on classification of headache as an “ache or sensation of tightness, pressure, or constriction, widely varied in intensity, frequency and duration: long lasting and commonly suboccipital (base of skull at the back), associated with sustained contraction of skeletal muscles, usually as part of the individual’s reaction during life stress”. Other descriptions of Tension headache include ‘hatband’ tightness around the head and ‘a weight on top of the head’. Tension headaches are amongst the most commonly reported headaches.

Tension headache is not usually accompanied by visual or sensory changes.

It is believed that Tension headaches are caused by muscular contractions in the head, face and neck regions; possibly due to stress and anxiety as well as tightness in the neck and jaw regions. Also Tension headaches may be caused by a number of different factors interacting with each other; it is therefore recommended that these types of headaches be addressed using a number of approaches, once a diagnosis has been arrived at.

Tension headaches may also combine with a vascular type headache (ie:migraine), to produce a ‘Combined’ headache; which essentially involves tension headache and a migraine co-existing. It is therefore important to address potential causes of both and once again this is where a combined approach will be best suited for relieving and/or preventing future attacks.

A ‘combined approach’ involves addressing any/all aggravating factors simultaneously- see treatments section.

Myofascial Pain

Myofascial pain and associated conditions such as ‘Fibromyalgia’ are commonly associated with headaches. It is believed that the pain signals are generated within fatigued or degenerated muscular and connective tissue fibres, probably due to overuse syndromes as well as other problems such as systemic illnesses.

Myofascial pain usually implies the involvement of ‘trigger points’ which refer to discrete areas within a muscle or connective tissue, which radiate pain to an adjacent area when pressed upon. Researchers believe that these points consist of tight areas within a muscle or connective tissue that are extraordinarily sensitive, due to a build up of wastes and chemicals which the body produces in response to irritation. These points become so sensitive that they may irritate adjacent nerves supplying that area, and then cause pain signals to travel to other areas in the neighborhood. In the case of headaches there may often be trigger points in and around the head, neck, jaw and shoulder regions.

What causes the irritation in the first place? It is widely believed that trigger points arise in muscles which have become injured due to trauma (ie: car accident / whiplash);or recurrent strain in cases such as keyboard operators and sportspeople. It is also believed that trigger points can be further perpetuated by fatigue, poor diet, stress, and many other factors. Muscular trigger points around the face, head and neck regions will often ‘refer'(send) pain into neighbouring areas, thereby simulating headaches, or possibly provoking their onset .

Trigger points causing head pain, often co-exist with joint problems in the head, face, neck, and shoulder regions, and there are many different techniques used to treat them.

key words: common headaches, common head pain, headache, tension headaches, neck problems, trigger points, myofascial pain, common migraines, eye problems, neck problems, ear problems, jaw problems, toothaches

See Treatments Section: For Diagnosis & Relief: Read More

Author:
Dr Jerome Dixon B.App.Sc (Chiropractic) B.Sc (Biochem)
89 Whitehorse Rd
Balwyn. VIC 3103

It is also important to note that many headaches and migraines have a number of ‘ingredients’ which combine to produce head pain. For further information please see the rollover sections on the homepage head illustration to see specific problems in specific parts of the head, neck and face.