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Headache (Head Pain)


Headache is pain of any sort in or around the head. There are several different types of headache. The main types of primary headache are:

  • Tension headaches
  • Cervicogenic Headache (from joint and muscle problems in the neck)
  • Migraine
  • Cluster headaches
  • Chronic daily headaches

Some headaches are secondary and are a sign of other illness or problems. Things like high blood pressure, brain infections or tumors. It is important that these serious causes of headaches are checked. Osteopaths are trained to recognise these conditions and will quickly make sure you see the right doctor.

Tension headaches

(also called stress headaches, muscular headaches) - a mild to moderate headache that may last minutes or days and tends to recur. The pain is fairly constant and felt in both sides of the head and neck as a pressure or tension. Most importantly, exercise doesn't make it worse and there are no additional symptoms such as nausea.


- symptoms can be variable, and there are several different types of migraine , but this is usually a moderate to severe one-sided headache that pulsates or throbs. Importantly, it gets worse with activity and there are additional symptoms, particularly nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and an increased sensitivity to noise, light or smells. Some people experience an aura (symptoms such as flashing lights) before the headache.

Cluster headaches

- frequent, short-lived (less than an hour), one-sided headaches across the temple or around the eye and occurring once or more a day, and often disrupting sleep. Headaches recur for several weeks then subside, although another cluster may develop months later.

Chronic daily headaches - these may be of any of the above types, and occur for at least 15 days a month for at least three months.

Headache Treatment

Simple painkillers can be effective for most types of headache if used properly. However over use of painkillers can give a drug-rebound head ache so prolonged or excessive use should be avoided.

We find that patients want a solution to the problem not just a pill to take the pain away. Most primary headaches have a mechanical component that can be traced and treated. Stretching and relaxing the neck muscles, reducing any trigger points and mobilsing and stiff neck joints is a very effective way to deal with a lot of primary head aches.

by John Chaffey last review October 2013