A headache is a pain located in any area of the head. They can occur on either side of the head and they can be isolated to a single location, radiate across the entire head, or have a constrained quality. The symptoms of a headache include a throbbing sensation, a sharp pain or a dull ache. They can come on gradually or appear suddenly and they can last from under an hour to several days.

There are many different types of headaches and each type falls under either the primary or secondary headache categories. Some examples of primary headaches are: cluster headaches, migraines (with and without aura), and tension headaches. The cause of a primary headache is usually over activity of the sensitive structures in the head. Many things can cause a primary headache to occur, but a primary headache is not a symptom of an underlying disease. Some factors that contribute to primary headaches are: the nerves or blood vessels outside of the skull, the muscles of your head and neck, or chemical activity in the brain. Some primary headaches can be brought on by different lifestyle factors such as: alcohol (most commonly red wine), processed meats, chocolate, changes in sleep, lack of sleep, poor posture, stress and not eating enough.

A secondary headache is usually known as a symptom of a disease that involves the sensitive nerves in the head. Some sources of secondary headaches are: acute sinusitis, blood clot, brain aneurysm, brain tumor, carbon monoxide poisoning, concussion, dehydration, ear infection, hangovers, influenza and meningitis.

Although the majority of headaches are not stemming from a serious illness, some can result in a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

It is important to seek emergency medical care when a headache is accompanied by:

  • Confusion or trouble understanding speech
  • Fainting
  • High fever
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body
  • Stiff neck
  • Trouble seeing, speaking or walking
  • Nausea or vomiting (unless related to the flu or a hangover)

You might consider seeing a doctor if you experience headaches that:

  • Occur more frequently than usual
  • Are more severe than usual
  • Worsen or don’t improve with over-the-counter drugs
  • Prevent you from working, sleeping or participating in normal activities

Most headaches can actually be helped with Active Release Technique (ART). In order to get rid of a headache we must resolve all physical restrictions in one’s neck, jaw, shoulders, and skull. When an individual has restrictions in any of the above areas, physical and biochemical changes will typically result in a headache. So, why not just take some medicine? One important factor to remember is that medicine might help relieve the pain in that moment; however, the medicine is not addressing the actual headache. When the cause of the headache is not addressed, the likelihood of it happening again increases. Studies have shown that chronic headaches can be helped by using soft tissue therapy such as Active Release Technique.

Active Release Technique (2013). The Gold Standard in Soft Tissue Treatment. http://www.activerelease.com/

Mayo Clinic (2014). Headaches. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/headache/basics/definition/sym-20050800