Cluster Headache

Headaches, how frustrating!?  Especially when you feel like your chasing your tail trying to find answers… “what’s that pain in my head”.  Headaches are one of the most common symptoms I encounter in practice and we all experience them differently. 

Osteopathy is a gentle form of manual medicine (meaning we use our hands in treatment) that can make a dramatic difference in how often you experience headaches often with reduction in severity.  By using a holistic model of health care we can uncover the underlying source of your headache allowing for appropriate treatment that allows you to get back to the activities you enjoy most in safe & effective manner.

Headaches can be described as any pain in the head or neck.  However, the International Classification of Headaches describes 14 different categories and sub-classes of headaches.  This starts to complicate things when you consult Dr. Google and find conflicting information that describes part of your headache pattern, but not all of it.  To help simply the process, we can separate headaches into two distinct categories, Primary & Secondary.

Types of Headache Pain

Primary headaches can be often related to vascular (influence on blood vessels) or muscular (influence on muscles) causes.  These may include Tension, Cluster, Cervicogenic Headaches or Migraines. 

Secondary headaches are more commonly related to inflammation and may include more of the sinister type headaches or red flags.   By distinguishing between the different types of headaches we can put together a treatment protocol that is specific to your needs.

If we find something that doesn’t fit a particular pattern or presents in a way that may raise some alarm bells, we can refer to the appropriate healthcare practitioner for further examination.  But, before you get too excited and wonder if your headache is something to be concerned about, remember these Red Flag symptoms only represent a small percentage of the population.  Generally, by using a common sense approach, you can spot these symptoms before they become cause for concern.  

The Red Flag signs may include: 

      • Headaches that progressively get worse over time

      • Sudden onset of a severe headache

      • Headaches associated with high fever, stiff neck or a rash 

      • Onset of headache after a head injury 

      • Problems with vision or profound dizziness 

As we’ve mentioned previously, each headache is unique to the person experiencing it.  How you perceive your headache is unique to you and Osteopathic treatment should always treat you as an individual with treatment aims specific to your needs.  There are however, headache patterns which can give important clues that help us identify what type of headache you may be experiencing.  Do you feel the headache on one side of the head or both?  Does it feel like a deep throb or a stabbing pain?  Maybe you experience a dull ache at the base of your skull?  Does the headache get worse after you’ve been on the computer for several hours?  Do you wake with a headache in the morning & then find it’s completely gone by lunch?  All of these symptoms provide important clues as to the underlying cause of your headache.

Now that we’re a step closer to identifying what type of headache you might have, we have to ask, “How do I treat it?”.  Treatment can range from taking medications (anti-inflammatories, analgesics, muscle relaxants etc.) to disappearing in a dark room for a few hours.  There are a number of relaxation techniques you can use that may help reduce a tension headache, check out Progressive Muscle Relaxation as it’s an excellent technique for releasing tension.  Avoiding alcohol can help treat Cluster Headaches.  Knowing if certain types of foods (hard cheeses, chocolate or cured meats) trigger a headache is often enough.  Have you been drinking enough water throughout the day?  Each of these steps can help reduce the severity of certain types of headaches.

For those headaches that don’t seem to respond to medications or relaxation techniques, there may be a underlying mechanical cause to your headache.  This is where Osteopathy can really thrive.  A specific type of headache called a Cervicogenic Headache, results from a sprain or strain in the neck that can often refer pain into the base of the skull or wrap to the front of the head.  Generally, restrictions in neck movement often precede the headache.  By using a gentle, effective and safe approach, we realign the bones, muscles, facia or ligaments making sure that the neck has proper blood supply, amply nerve function and adequate drainage back to the heart which assists the body in resolving the underlying cause.

Headaches can often have debilitating symptoms that may last up to 3 days… that doesn’t sound like a very fun time.  At Elevate Osteopathic, we want to help you get out of pain and back to the activities you enjoy most.  Our treatments are specific to your needs because we all experience headaches differently.  Even if two people have the same headache pattern, chances are they got to the same place by two completely different paths.  For more information check out or website or better yet, give us a ring and we’ll be more than happy to chat about how Osteopathy can help ease your headaches today.  Elevate Osteopathic: A Wellness Approach to Health Care, servicing Mudjimba, Bli Bli, Coolum, Maroochydore and the entire Sunshine Coast.   

References:

Biondi, D. (2000).  “Cervicogenic headache: mechanisms, evaluation and treatment strategies”.  Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 9(100), pp. S7-S14. 

Page, P. (2011). “Cervicogenic headache: an evidence-led approach to clinical management”.  The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 6(3), pp. 254-266.

Ylinen, J., Nikander, R., Nykanen, M., Kautiainen, H et al.  (2010).  “Effect of neck exercises on cervicogenic headache: a randomised controlled trial”.  Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 42, pp. 344-349.  

Bigal, M and Lipton, R. (2007).  “The differential diagnosis of chronic daily headaches: an algorithm-based approach”.  Journal of Headache Pain, 8, pp. 263-272.

Pizzorno, L., and Murray, J. (2002).  Natural Medicine Instructions for Patients.  Elsevier Science.  

Clinch, C. (2001).  “Evaluation of acute headaches in adults”.  American Family Physician, 63(4), pp. 685-692.