Headaches have been recorded as early as 3000 B.C. in an epic poem written in Sumeria. Since then it has been referenced time and time again in various journals of early medical pioneers such as the great Hippocrates now known as the father of medicine. There are many classifications of headaches and the symptoms and causes often overlap. For this instance we will talk of the most frequent types seen in this practice. It should be recognized that headaches may signify severe conditions or illness such as brain tumors, dissecting vertebral arteries, hypertension, stroke and infection such as bacterial meningitis. If your symptoms also include high fever, neck rigidity, persistent headache such as the worst ever or blindness please seek medical attention immediately.

Cervicogenic Headaches

These headaches are characterized by neck pain that spreads to the back of the head toward the front. The headaches are moderate in intensity with a burning or aching quality. The pain usually follows the distribution of the occipital nerve and gives rise from the C1-4 cervical nerve roots. The neck is often tender to firm touch especially in the upper parts closer to the base of the head. These symptoms are often caused from spinal joint fixation (biomechanical joint problems), whiplash injuries, degenerative disc disease, herniated discs and rarely tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and osteomyelitis (bone infections).

Migraine Headaches

Typical migraine headaches occur on just one side of the head, throbbing in nature, varying in intensity from moderate to severe and is aggravated by physical activity. Not all of these symptoms must be present for the correct classification. Some migraines also exhibit a visual aura or visual disturbance. The disturbance may appear as flashes, geometrical shapes or patterns, spots and shimmering. The pain may start out on one side and spread to cover the entire head. Most often the onset of the headache is gradual and typical patients suffer from 4 to 72 hours. The frequency varies from patient to patient, but the average is 3 times monthly.

The pain of migraine headaches is usually associated with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Sensitivity to light and noise is also common. This is why many migraine sufferers seek a dark quiet room. Most people feel exhausted after the attack of a migraine and maybe even feel depressed.

Tension Type Headaches

These headaches are commonly thought to be caused by tightness of the muscles of the scalp brought on by stress induced factors or emotional events. The mechanism is quite complicated but is thought to be linked to a muscle/vascular model of pathogenesis. Common symptoms include pain on both sides of the head in a pressing or tightening feeling without pulsing, no aggravation with activity and absence of nausea or vomiting. The pain is gradual and usually occurs during or after a stressful event and can be worse later in the day. The pain can radiate to the back of the head and into the upper shoulders. The headaches are usually just mild to moderate in intensity without nausea or vomiting, but occasionally loss of appetite occurs. Patients with chronic tension type headaches often feel emotionally depressed.

The pain is gradual and usually occurs during or after a stressful event and can be worse later in the day.

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