Healthy Beginnings


Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints. There are 150 different types of headaches, and most people will experience one or more in their lifetime. They can affect anyone regardless of age, race or gender. The International Headache Society (HIS) categorizes head pain into three types: 1. primary headaches, 2. secondary headaches and 3. cranial neuralgias, facial pain and other headaches.

Common primary headaches are illnesses caused directly by an over activity of the pain sensory of the head. This includes the blood vessels, muscles, chemical activity in the brain, and nerves of the head and neck area. Primary headaches include:

  1. Tension headaches, which are the most common primary type. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 20 people in the developed world suffer with a daily headache.
  2.  Migraines, which are the second most common primary type, and are most common in women after puberty and tend to run in families. Most children and teens (90 percent) that have migraines have other family members who get them. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is a 70 percent chance that their child will also have them. If only one parent has a history of these headaches, the risk drops to 25-50 percent.
  3. Cluster headaches, which and are more common in men in their late 20s.

Secondary headaches are usually a symptom of an injury or an underlying illness. Different factors that can cause secondary headaches include:

  • Hangover
  • Arterial tears ( carotid or vertebral dissections)
  • Brain tumor or aneurysm ( a bulge in one of your brain arteries)
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding in or around the brain
  • “Brain freeze”
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Chiari malformation (structural problem at the base of the skull)
  • Concussion
  • Dehydration
  • Ear infection (middle ear)
  • Glaucoma
  • Teeth-grinding at night or dental problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Medications to treat other disorders
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes and fluids surrounding your brain and spinal cord)
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Influenza
  • Overuse of pain medication, known as rebound headaches (the most common cause of secondary headaches)
  • Panic attacks
  • Sinus infection
  • Stroke

People often get headaches because of illness, stress, environment (including secondhand tobacco smoke), strong smells from household chemicals or perfumes, allergens and certain foods. Pollution, noise, lighting and weather changes are other possible triggers.

The pain you feel during a headache comes from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. Specific nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles switch on and send pain signals to your brain, but it’s not clear why these signals turn on in the first place.

Home treatment for headaches can often help reduce the severity of pain and decrease duration and length of time.

In most of the research and articles available, the most common ways to treat headaches are with drugs and rest. Depending on your headache type, treatments can include over-the-counter medications, prescriptions, antidepressants, oxygen therapy and Botox. Also, mentioned is acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, herbal and nutritional health products, hypnosis, staying hydrated, decreasing your stress, using heat or ice to the neck and head area, and meditation. What surprised me was they never mentioned chiropractic care. In over 20 years of providing care to patients, I have seen people with headaches that get great relief, and sometimes get rid of their headaches for good. Not all types of headaches respond to this type of care, but a lot do. Research shows that spinal manipulation – one of the primary treatments provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. A 2014 report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) found that interventions commonly used in chiropractic care improved outcomes for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain, and increased benefit was shown in several instances where a multimodal approach to neck pain had been used. Also, a 2011 JMPT study found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.

Headaches can be a symptom of a serious condition. If they become more severe, are regular, persistent and different form your normal pattern, or, if they occur after a head injury or fall, it’s important to seek medical advice.

For more information, call Dr. Jensen at 775-323-1222 or visit