Types of Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints made by patients, and there are several factors that cause headaches. If all headaches had the same causes they could be easily treated with either over the counter pain or prescription medications. Unfortunately, headaches have numerous causes and subtypes and are often very difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat.

There are two major classifications of headaches:

  • Primary – A primary headache is one where the headache problem itself is its own cause of pain. Examples of primary headaches include: tension, migraine, and cluster headaches.
  • Secondary – Secondary headaches, which are much more common, occur as a symptom of some other illness or injury. The underlying problem may be something very serious and life threatening, which is why it is important to seek medical help for chronic headache pain.  Many times the causes are benign even though the pain may be severe or excruciating.
  • Cranial neuralgias, facial pain and other headaches – These are headaches caused by nerve inflammation in the head and neck, which may also cause pain in the face or headaches that do not match the first two classifications.

All of the above can all be trigeminally nerve-controlled headaches and treated through the science of neuromuscular dentistry.

Types of Headache

  • Tension – The most common type of headache. These are episodic or chronic in nature. Episodic headaches are usually the result of stress or fatigue. See a doctor if you suffer chronic, or frequent, tension headaches since there may be an underlying medical condition.

Tension headaches are frequently caused by clenching the teeth and jaw muscles. Neck and shoulder muscles will always become sore with chronic jaw problems.  These headaches are ideally treated by someone understanding how neuromuscular dentistry and tension headaches are related.

  • Cluster – These types of headaches are described as the most severe and intense headaches suffered. They usually have little warning and can be quite debilitating, instantly stopping people from continuing whatever it is they were doing. They tend to disappear as frequently as they come and tend to come in groups or cycles. Many patients suffer from one to four cluster headaches in a cycle, which may last for several days. What causes them remains a bit of a mystery, but links may be genetic, caused by certain medication, or something else.

Migraine – Approximately 29 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches each year. Migraines are considered vascular headaches because they are related to changes in the size of the arteries feeding the brain, altering serotonin levels in the brain, which leads to pain. They are also sometimes considered to be neurogenic because of the way they spread on brain imaging.  Migraines can occur unilaterally or may be isolated to one side of the head. They can be set off by stress, allergies, intense stimuli like bright lights or loud music, or even diet.

Migraine headaches are usually mediated by the trigeminal nerve and can often be eliminated/avoided or substantially reduced by neuromuscular dentistry.

  • Hormone – Changes in hormone levels are frequently associated with headaches with serotonin levels being one of the key hormones involved. Pregnancy, menses, menopause, and even birth control can cause hormones, mainly estrogen, to become unbalanced. As the hormone levels attempt to correct themselves, headaches can and frequently do occur. 
  • Other – Headaches that do not fall into any of the other categories, but are frequent enough to mention separately include: rebound headaches caused by overmedication, medicine withdrawal sinus headaches, and organic headaches caused by tumors or aneurysms.

Although everybody suffers headaches from time to time, the nature and causes of headaches vary greatly. People suffering from severe or chronic headaches, especially when they are of sudden onset should seek medical attention to rule out any serious illness or life-threatening condition.

Headache Treatment Options

Many people elect to self treat their headaches by taking over the counter medications such as aspirin or NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs). Relaxation exercises, guided imagery, counseling, and acupuncture are just a few alternative headache treatments that are gaining in popularity because of their effectiveness.  Long term use of NSAIDs can lead to many adverse consequences.

Neuromuscular dentistry addresses headaches by eliminating many of the underlying causes and reducing the total noxious neural input.

If you suffer from frequent or painful headaches, your goal is to get rid of it, and, if possible, prevent them from coming back. Knowing more about types of headaches you have and the underlying causes of your headaches will help you and your caregiver to prevent, or, at least, minimize them in the future. Contact our headache treatment doctors at iHATEheadaches.com.

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