What is a headache?

A headache is a literal pain in the head.  Most headaches aren’t the result of a serious illness, but some may result from a life-threatening condition. There are many different kinds of headaches; those that can be effectively treated through chiropractic care are: tension headaches, migraines, cervicogenic headaches and some post-trauma headaches.


The key symptom of a headache is pain in the head or face.  There are over 150 types of headaches, depending on the type of headache, the location of the pain will change.

Migraines are characterized by intense throbbing or pulsing on one or both sides of the head and also often sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and even vomiting.

Cervicogenic headaches are generally felt as pain in the neck or pain starting at the base of the skull and spreading to the front of the head.

Tension-type headaches bring constant pain and pressure that may be dull and achy.  They are often felt as a tight band around the sides of the head, forehead, temples and back of the head.


Most tension headaches and migraines are caused by stress; this includes emotional stress, physical stress (posture or injury) and chemical stress (improper diet or dehydration).

Cervicogenic headaches are generally caused by irritation or dysfunction in the cervical spine, which can lead to pain and discomfort.  They may also be caused by trauma such as whiplash, or an underlying medical condition.  These types of headaches can be difficult to diagnose because associated pain is not always felt in the neck and they can mimic tension headaches and migraines.  They are quite common in today’s world, due to lifestyle (ie. sitting for prolonged periods, using smartphones) and respond well to treatment.

Other causes include;

IllnessHeadaches are also common with conditions like sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), a throat infection, or an ear infection, common colds and fever. In some cases, headaches can result from a blow to the head or, rarely, a sign of a more serious medical problem.

Your environment –  Secondhand smoke, household chemicals or perfumes, allergens, and certain foods, pollution, noise, lighting, and weather changes can all trigger headaches.

Genetics – Most children and teens who have migraines have other family members who get them. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is a 70% chance their child will also have them.


In treating headaches, we use a number of different modalities depending upon the needs of the specific patient.  These may include spinal manipulative therapy, patient education, soft tissue therapies and referral.  Chiropractic treatment (and more specifically, spinal manipulation therapy) has proven effective for tension-type headaches, cervicogenic headaches and reducing the intensity and frequency of migraines.  Each patient will receive a tailored treatment based upon individual needs and assessment.


Canadian Chiropractic Association. Headaches – Head & Neck. (n.d.). https://www.chiropractic.ca/headaches/headaches/

Zinovy Meyler, D. (2018). What Is Cervicogenic Headache? https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/what-cervicogenic-headache

Headache Basics Headaches – Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment (webmd.com)

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