Headaches and How Chiropractic Can Help

Types of Headaches

Not all headaches are created equal, from eye strain all the way up to migraines. Learn how to tell the difference and what you can do about it.

“I have a headache.” If you had a dollar for every time you or someone you know said that, you’d probably have enough money to fund a cure for headaches. Though headaches are common, they’re not an easy-to-fix issue. Paying attention to the clues and the location of the symptoms can ultimately help determine the cause.

What Kind of Headache Do I Have?

Not all headaches are created equal, from eye strain all the way up to migraines. Let’s review the different types of headaches:

Tension Headache

These headaches are caused by stress, which causes muscles to tighten. There is often a band-like headache that wraps around the skull. Picture, for a moment, an 80s sweatband — that’s where the pain is. The hunching of shoulders puts pressure on the neck, which puts pressure on the head.

Cervicogenic (Neck) headache

The neck can cause this headache. It wraps around from the base of the skull, up and over to the eye area, specifically on one side, and pain can occur when you move your head or neck. Patients may try to find relief through pushing on the upper part of the neck at the base of the skull, or trying to stretch the neck when it’s stiff.

Sinus Headache

Has your face ever felt like it was going to explode behind your eyes, on the middle of your forehead, or have you had referred pain reaching down to your gum area? You’ve probably been the victim of the sinus headache–a nasty combination of facial pain plus a headache. Seasonal allergy sufferers are likely the most familiar with the pressure and pain of this condition.


Similar to Cervicogenic headaches, pain of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint), or TMD (temporomandibular disorder), typically affects only one side (of the jaw). This popping, aching and pain in the jaw area can be caused by teeth clenching or trauma to the head, neck, or jaw, forcing the area out of alignment. Read more in our blog post about TMD and the TMJ and the role of chiropractic.


If you’ve had one, you know what we’re talking about. If you haven’t had one, just hope that you never will. This typically one-sided, debilitating headache affects vision, hearing, and balance through special symptoms like aura (visual disturbances, or described as the ability to see sound), nausea, or vertigo. While some patients have 1-2 in their lifetime, other patients with severe cases may have up to 3-4 migraines per week. There are many possible causes or triggers for migraines, ranging from hormones and stress to food sensitivities.

Dehydration headache

Thirsty? Dizzy? Confused? Have you had any water to drink today? You might be dehydrated. This type of headache varies by person. It can include pulsing or throbbing on both sides of the head, and is typically worse with movement–even walking. During an episode of dehydration, brain tissue can shrink, and your brain may have to work harder to make up for it.

Digestion headache

Yes, digestion headache. Sounds unrelated. However, this headache is linked to and is typically accompanied by stomach upset and/or diarrhea. This headache pain can occur in a band around the head, or around the eye area. It’s typically seen in patients with chronic GI conditions, such as IBS or Crohn’s disease during a flare-up/episode.

Eye strain

After everyone began working (and schooling) from home, an entire sector of the world began suffering from eye strain. The pain associated with eye strain is similar to tension headache or migraine pain. It can be triggered by prolonged reading or hours of computer work. It almost goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: this affects students and anyone who works long hours at a computer.

My Head Hurts — What Do I Do?

When the headache hits, you don’t want to (or can’t even) think too hard about what to do next. There are two methods to the madness here: fix it now or fix it later–”both” is also a choice, and honestly, it’s the best idea. Please note: Any age group can get headaches, but kids rarely get headaches. If your child complains of a headache, get them checked out immediately. Trauma from a football tackle or a car accident can have big consequences.

Fix it Now / Symptom Relief

1) Take over-the-counter pain relief you need–whether it’s Advil, Tylenol or Aleve.
2) Apply ice and heat. Yes, both. Place the ice pack at the back of your head, and place the heating pad at your shoulders or between your shoulder blades. After 10 minutes, remove them.
3) Lay down. Go back to the 19th century and put away the phone, the tablet, and the TV remote. Rest your eyes and your head the old-fashioned way.

Fix it Later / Correction

Some of these efforts aren’t a “fix it later” but are more of a “fix it with some time and patience, for lasting effect.”
Tension Headache solutions: Chiropractic will be a fantastic asset for aiding tension in your body, including an evaluation of your posture. Poor posture puts pressure on parts of your body, precipitating pain. (Say that five times fast!) When chiropractic is used in tandem with massage and stress relief/management, your body will start feeling looser and better.

  • Cervicogenic headache solutions: Chiropractic is incredibly important for headaches surrounding the cervical spine. With gentle adjustments and physical therapy, your body can be realigned to function optimally — with less pain.
  • Sinus headache solutions: Acupuncture is a particularly helpful treatment for sinus pressure and pain, and we’ll refer you to excellent, licensed acupuncturists who can help. Antibiotics are sometimes necessary if a sinus infection is present or persistent. For ongoing care, sinus washes and decongestants can help clear and dry up the sinuses, preventing the build up of pressure.
  • TMJ pain solutions: Night splints, chiropractic to help realign your back, neck and shoulders, along with stress management, will help your TMJ improve.
  • Migraine solutions: Pay attention to what precludes your migraine, and what led up to it. A lot of migraine headache care is trial and error, because the causes vary widely. Dark rooms help with immediate pain, and having a chiropractor treat you along with other providers (co-management) will give you the best results for managing and treating your migraine pain.
  • Dehydration: This one is easy: water. It’s easy to say, anyway. Actually drinking the proper amount of water is vital to keeping your body in good health–for your skin, for your bodily functions, and to keep those terrible dehydration headaches at bay. Bottoms up! (That’s water, right?)
  • Digestion: Life is not always a veritable smorgasbord. If you have an allergy or certain foods aggravate your condition, avoid them, whether it’s Red Dye 40 or gluten. Keep your diet clear of your triggers, and your GI system and head will thank you. If you don’t know what’s affecting your body, seek out a gastroenterologist, an allergist or naturopath.
  • Eye Strain: The feeling of relief when you shut off the computer isn’t just from being done working. It’s your eyes telling you they’ve had enough. Take frequent breaks from the screen. Get your eyes checked at an optometrist, make sure you have glasses or contacts if you need them, and buy some blue-light reducing glasses to help reduce strain on your eyes while working in front of a computer.

Chiropractic for Headaches

At Element Chiropractic, we value getting to the root of the problem. We want to help determine the cause of the headache, whether it’s seasonal allergies or poor posture. If needed, we can take x-rays to investigate any underlying neck problems that may be contributing to your headaches.

In addition to working with you, we’re also dedicated to working towards the best solution for you, and are happy to co-manage with other providers, including medical doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and licensed massage therapists. Teamwork makes the dream work. (The dream is you, living your life without headaches.)

Schedule an appointment to see how we can help with your headache!