Common causes of headaches

There are a number of common causes of headaches, these include:

  • Eyestrain headaches: The cause of these headaches is from a visual impairment or problem that has not been corrected and therefore the eye endures pain and heaviness
  • Tension: Associated with tightness of the neck or scalp, this type of headache is non-throbbing pain around both sides of the head
  • Cluster headaches: This form of headache can be severe pain around one eye resulting in the drooping of the eyelid, nasal congestion and a watering eye. They are commonly experienced more in males
  • Migraine: This is a well-known headache that involves severe, throbbing pain that can lead to vomiting, sensitivity to sounds, lights and smells, and cold hands. For some people, before and during the headache they may develop an aura, which can be disturbing, often unbearable, flashing lights and difficulty focusing on blind spots. This can last up to 45 minutes.
  • Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ): This type of headache is the result from a problem of the jaw. In some cases, a clicking sound can be heard when the jaw opens

When to see your doctor or chiropractor

It is recommended that you seek care from one of our chiropractors if:

  • Your headache seems related to your muscles or joints in the neck
  • You can make your headache better or worse with neck movements
  • Putting pressure on muscles or joints makes your headache better or worse

It is recommended that you seek medical advice if:

  • You have experienced an accident, especially one that results in a head injury
  • You have a headache and are also experiencing a stiff neck, sensitivity to light, vomiting and a fever
  • You find that you are experiencing a very sudden headache
  • You change body positions and your headache gets increasingly worse
  • You notice that your headache is leading to the onset of nerve symptoms, such as dizziness and a sudden loss of balance
  • You notice that your headache is increasing over several weeks

Managing your headache

If your headache is related to your neck, or upper back then chiropractic may be a fantastic way to reduce the pain associated with a headache. However, there are various things your can do yourself to manage your headache.

  • Have a sleep in a dark room
  • Go for a walk
  • Reduce your stress levels and lead a healthy lifestyle.
  • Monitor your headache by keeping a headache diary. This diary can include notes on what you have eaten and your hormonal cycle. These notes can help your doctor accurately diagnose your headache and help in detecting what triggers your headaches
  • Recommended non-prescription medication, however always read the label and consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions

We use evidence-based treatments for head and head pain that are supported by the latest research.



Types of migraine

A classic migraine comes with a set of symptoms called aura. These symptoms generally last for about an hour. While a common migraine strikes without aura, up to 1 in 3 people will experience aura symptoms.

Aura symptoms

Common aura symptoms include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tingling sensations in the face, arms and hands


A migraine can start at any time with symptoms occurring before, during or even after a migraine. While not all migraines are the same, general symptoms may include:

  • Increased sensitivity to noise and lights
  • A prolonged headache lasting from four to 72 hours
  • Throbbing pain on one side of your head
  • A headache that is triggered when you exercise or are active, preventing you from continuing
  • Vomiting, nausea and feeling unwell

You don’t need to see a GP when you experience a migraine. However, it’s recommended you do if you are over 50+ years old; your aura symptoms last longer than one hour and/or if your migraine gets worse or are becoming more frequent.

Complications of migraine

There are varying complications with migraines. In some cases, a migraine can last longer than 72 hours, this is referred to as a migrainosus and those who experience this should visit a GP.

A chronic migraine is used to describe migraines experienced more then 15 days a month over the course of three months per year. It is important to note that when referring to illness, the term chronic to indicate how long a person has experienced that condition, rather than the severity of it.

Chronic migraines are occur in 1% and they are treated with increasing amounts of medication to control the number and frequency of migraine episodes. The result of increased medication may result in, what is referred to as, medication-overuse headaches.

Those who experience frequent migraines may be at risk of stroke, anxiety, depression and panic related disorders.

Causes of migraine

While the cause of migraines is not known, they may be the result of a chemical called serotonin. A decrease in the levels of serotonin cause changes to the blood vessels in the brain. The reason the levels change is also unknown.

Common triggers can include:

  • Loud noises
  • Particular smells
  • Particular foods and drinks, e.g. such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and cheese
  • Bright lights
  • Flickering lights
  • Tension throughout your neck and/or shoulders
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Poor posture
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Overdoing exercise, especially if you are not used to it
  • Skipping meals

Less common triggers can include:

  • Smoking
  • Toothaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep tablets
  • Eye strain

Some women may experience migraines in the lead up and during their periods, pregnancy and menopause. Women may also experience them as a result of certain medications, such as oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. These hormonal changes may impact the severity and frequency of migraines.

Diagnosis of migraine

While there is no particular test that can diagnose a migraine, your GP will look at other ways to identify your symptoms and look for possible triggers and patters. This is where a diary tracking the pattern of your migraines can be helpful, as well as your medical history.

Treatment of migraine


There are ways that you can help manage your migraines that include keeping a diary to record your symptoms, the frequency, how long they last and what medications you have taken, if any. These recordings will help your GP identify patterns.

You can also help the severity of your migraine by resting in quiet, dark rooms. Cold or hot towels applied to the pressure points on the side of the forehead or neck can also be effective in relieving symptoms.

Chiropractic and physiotherapy

Migraines are multifactorial. Exercise has been shown to help, however if you are suffering from stiffness, tightness, lack of mobility or your joints just aren’t working like they once did. This is very important, migraines leave people stiff, tight and usually couped up in the house all day. Chiropractic can help alleviate these aspects of migraine.

If you are pregnant

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, most migraine medications will be unsuitable, so it is recommended that you consult your GP before taking any medications, as they may be harmful to your baby. Our chiropractors frequently see patients with headaches and migraine during pregnancy. For many patients this will relate to mechanical changes that occur during pregnancy. Pregnancy leads to a lot of mechanical (postural) changes in the female body including the way women walk, sleep, move, bend and even has an effect on changing the little things that we do throughout the day, such as getting out of a chair or bending down to pick up something from the floor. These changes in the way we hold ourselves tighten muscles and stiffen joints and this felt in the neck and head.

Prevention of migraine

To help prevent the onset of migraines, it’s important to try and identify the signs and triggers. The most effective way of doing this is through a diary that notes the patterns of your migraines.
Exercise has also shown positive results. In doing 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise for 5 or more days a week may help prevent migraines.

The bottom line on chiropractic

Chiropractic can be a useful tool when combating neck related headaches. It is common for different types of headache to be caused by neck problems. We provide a comprehensive approach to neck related headaches using safe and effective treatments.

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