Understanding Headaches: When to Worry and What to Do

5 min read

A throbbing feeling in your head can put the brakes on your day. Even a mild headache is enough to make it hard to focus. There are several different types of headaches, with different reasons for each. Some headaches can be related to more serious issues, so it’s important to be aware of what’s caused by a stressful day or too much screen time versus something you should talk to your doctor about. We will break down some information about headaches, including the different types, warning signs to look out for, and how to prevent and treat headaches. 

Different Types of Headaches

Headaches are categorized as either primary or secondary. Primary headaches have no known underlying cause. Secondary headaches are related to an underlying cause, such as an infection, an injury, etc. 

Primary Headaches

The most common primary headaches are tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. 

  • Tension headaches are usually milder than other types of headaches. They typically feel like a dull ache, pressure, or sensitivity in the shoulders, neck, and scalp. These headaches may be sporadic and minor, or they could be consistent and last longer. A tension headache is commonly related to stress, soreness in the neck and back, or anxiety. 
  • Migraines are a more intense type of headache and can cause symptoms such as throbbing or pulsing in the head, nausea and vomiting, and/or sensitivity to light, sound, smell, or touch. There are some known triggers for a migraine, but it’s not always clear what causes them. Diet, weather changes, sleep, medications, hormone changes, and stress may trigger migraines.
  • Cluster headaches are a common type of headache that usually involve severe pain in cycles or clusters. A cluster period may last for weeks, months, or even a year. You can also go long periods without a headache before getting another if you suffer from cluster headaches. 

Secondary Headaches 

Some common causes of secondary headaches include:

  • Sinusitis. Sinusitis occurs when the inside of the nose becomes inflamed. This can cause a build-up of pressure in the head, which can cause a headache. It’s often felt at the front of the head and behind the eyes.
  • Head injury. Head injuries like a concussion can affect brain function and lead to headaches. Concussions are usually caused by an unexpected blow to the head from a fall or accident. 
  • Medication overuse. Taking pain medications too often can cause headaches. This type of headache will usually go away once you stop taking the drug. 

Related Blog: Common Types of Headaches 

When to Worry About Headaches

Most of the time, headaches are not a major cause for concern, but in some instances, they may be a sign of something more serious. Serious health conditions that may be associated with a severe headache include:

  • Extremely high blood pressure
  • Stroke 
  • Bleed in or around the brain (aneurysm)
  • Issues with the connection of the veins and arteries
  • A blood clot
  • Brain tumor

When to See Your Doctor

Consult your doctor immediately if your headache:

  • Wakes you from your sleep or makes it difficult for you to fall asleep
  • Lasts for more than a few days
  • Is worse in the morning
  • Worsens or the pattern changes when you experience frequent headaches
  • Has no known cause

Your provider can run some tests to help determine the cause of the headache. They can also look at your vital signs and consider other health-related factors to determine if your headaches are a cause for concern or if they are related to a more serious underlying cause. 

What Triggers Headaches?

We’ve already discussed some headache causes -- primary and secondary. If you’re experiencing headaches regularly, it may be good to consider some of these factors related to triggering your headaches. From there, you can create a plan to make changes that can help.

  • Lifestyle factors such as drinking excessive caffeine or alcohol, consuming a diet high in artificial sweeteners, and eating processed foods. Try to change one thing at a time to see if there is one change that helps.
  • Environmental factors such as loud noises, bright lights, or strong odors can cause headaches. In some cases, you can’t avoid these triggers. However, if you know, for instance, that bright light for long periods leads to headaches, you can plan to have sunglasses on hand (yes, even indoors), or you can find a way to move to an area that’s less bright.
  • Emotional triggers such as stress and anxiety are known to lead to headaches as well as other physical symptoms like stomach aches. It’s important that you try to lower your stress level. Long periods of time spent in a state of high stress will lead to other health problems, including heart conditions. 

Related Blog: Tips to Help Prevent a Headache 

How to Manage Headaches at Home

You may be able to treat your headache at home by making certain adjustments to your environment and utilizing some natural remedies. 

Some at-home methods that may help with headaches include:

  • Rest and relaxation techniques like meditation and breathwork
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, when used moderately
  • A cold or warm compress to the head
  • Staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet 

How Chiropractic Care Can Help with Headaches

Chiropractors can help with headaches by performing spinal adjustments, massage, and recommending lifestyle changes. Your chiropractor will want a complete picture of your health by understanding your lifestyle and health history. They can use these factors to offer the best recommendations to overcome your headaches holistically. 

Holistic Headache Treatment in The Woodlands

Living with chronic headaches is anything but ideal. Pain in your head can really get in the way of your daily life, including your ability to work. When a headache is related to a serious cause, it is critical that you seek medical treatment right away. 

But if you’re experiencing less severe headaches relatively often or migraines, set up an appointment with the Village Chiropractic team in The Woodlands. They will review the likely causes of your headaches and, from there, create a treatment plan along with recommended lifestyle adjustments that are likely to help. Request an appointment for an evaluation

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