November 20, 2012

Mal di testa / Headache 

By: Dr. Livia Chiarelli

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints of people visiting my office.  The World Health Organization (www.who.int) estimates that 47% of the world’s population has had a headache at least once in the last year. Although this number is quite high most people don’t know what kind of headache they are actually suffering from.  It is important to know what types of headache you suffer from in order to not only prevent them, but to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate treatment.

Although there are several different types of headaches, 150 diagnostic headache categories approximately, the most common types of headaches are:

Tension headaches:

  • The most common type
  • Feels like constant pressure, like a band around the head
  • Over the counter medications often help alleviate symptoms
  • Some say these headaches are a result of the contraction of neck and scalp muscles, which may be a result of stress

Cluster headaches:

  • More common among men than women
  • Recurring headaches that occur in groups or cycles
  • Occur suddenly and are characterized by severe, often debilitating pain on one side of the head
  • Often accompanied by a watery eye, a runny nose, or nasal congestion on the same side as the pain
  • During this type of headache sufferers often feel restless and unable to get comfortable

Migraine headaches:

  • Diagnosed based on a set of criteria
  • Last between 4 and 72 hours
  • At least two of the following four symptoms are present
    • Throbbing pain
    • One sided pain
    • Pain that is worsened by or interferes with routine activity
    • Nausea and or vomiting
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Sensitivity to sound
    • Can occasionally be foreshadowed by an aura such as hand numbness or visual disturbances

Sinus headaches:

  • Deep constant pain in the cheek bones, forehead or bridge of the nose
  • Pain usually intensifies with sudden head movements
  • Usually accompanied with other sinus symptoms such as nasal discharge, fever, feeling of fullness in the ears and facial swelling
  • Can be treated with antibiotics, antihistamines or decongestants

Cervicogenic headaches:

  • Originates from structures in the neck
  • One sided pain only, that starts at the back of the neck and moves forward to the forehead or temples
  • Often accompanied with restricted neck range of motion, and same sided neck, shoulder or arm pain
  • Discomfort can be alleviated by the use of certain over the counter medications such as anti-inflammatories

Once you have determined which headaches you are suffering from it is now time to seek relief.  Acupuncture, chiropractic care, naturopathic medicine and massage therapy are all great options to treat many of the most common types of headaches.  Next time you’re at IHI make sure you tell your practitioner about your headaches to see if they can help.

Dr. Livia Chiarelli graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College where she received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree. Prior to this she received an Honours Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Life Science from McMaster University and has also completed the Contemporary Medical Acupuncture course at McMaster University and is a Certified Active Release Technique (ART) provider. Dr. Chiarelli practices at the Integrative Health Institute located downtown Toronto near the St. Lawrence Market.

Image: Aldo Cavini Benedetti via Compfight

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