Headaches are one of the most common physical problems in the range of human experience, and it is estimated that up to 90% of adults will experience at least one headache each year. Of that 90%, approximately 45 million adults will seek relief from their doctor. Headaches have historically been divided into three categories, Muscular Contraction Headaches, Vascular Headaches and Traction- Inflammatory Headaches.
Muscular Contraction or Tension Headaches account for approximately 90- 92% of all headaches, making this the most common type. Muscular tension, bony misalignment, TMJ disorders, fibromyalgia, or other muscular problems generally bring about these headaches. Some of the factors leading to the development of tension headaches are the weight of the head (18-20 lbs), very little bone-to-bone contact (about the same as 2 pairs of fingertips touching), and the tension in the muscles and ligaments that keep the head and neck in balance. It is not surprising then, that things can easily get a little out of balance, and the resulting pain will resonate throughout the whole structure. The classic symptoms of a tension headache are a dull, steady pain that feels like a band tightening around your head.
Vascular Headaches account for approx. 6-8% of all headaches and include classic and common migraines, cluster headaches and sinus headaches. Vascular headaches are sometimes referred to as congestive headaches. Generally speaking, vascular headaches have to do with blood flow to the brain and the pain is from excess fluid pressing on the meninges (coverings of the brain). These headaches are characterized by pain that “throbs” with pulse.
Migraines affect more women than men. They begin with extreme vasoconstriction during which the sufferer feels a sense of euphoria mixed with a sense of dread that the worst is yet to come. After the vasoconstriction comes a huge vasodilatation. The blood is still con- tained within the vessels, but the excess pressure causes excruciating pain. The pain of migraines is typically throbbing and begins on one side of the head, it also causes nausea and some visual disturbances.
Cluster headaches are closely related to migraines, but they affect men more than women. Generally they come on right after the other, for days or weeks at a time. Usually they happen at night, with pain severe enough to wake the sufferer out of a sound sleep. Episodes may occur once or twice in a year or just once in a lifetime. The pain of a cluster headache is a throbbing pain around one red, watery eye with nasal congestion on that side of your face.
Sinus Headaches are listed among congestive headaches because they deal with congestion of the sinuses. When someone suffers from sinus-related allergies or sinusitis, their sinus membranes can become irritated and inflamed, thus causing pain in the facial area. The pain of a sinus headache is a steady pain behind your face that gets worse if you bend forward and is accompanied by congestion.
Traction-Inflammatory Headaches account for approx. 2% of the headaches people experience. They are indicative of severe underlying problems such as tumor, aneurysm, or infection of the CNS.
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