A woman stands outside at her workplace. She is holding her head and has a headache.


Headaches are one of the most common reasons that people see their primary care physician. They account for 20% of outpatient visits to neurologists. People with chronic headaches report disabling symptoms that interfere with daily activities. Sources of headaches are often a combination of factors including musculoskeletal, psychological, neurovascular, nutritional, and chemical imbalances in the brain.

Treatment Options

R = Risk      E = Effectiveness      S = Self-Care

C = Cost     U = Usefulness (overall rating)

1 = Least Favorable     5 = Most Favorable

RESCU(overall rating)
Chiropractic4 3  1  5 4

The International Headache Society

This society has classified hundreds of different types of headaches into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches are the most common headache type and have a single cause. They are not the result of an underlying disease or process. They include migraine, tension-type, cluster, and others.

Secondary headaches are classified according to their causes. Examples of secondary headaches are headaches attributed to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and cervicogenic headaches, which are attributed to mechanical disorders of the neck. Secondary headaches can also be a warning sign of more serious underlying problems like brain tumors, aneurysms, inflammatory diseases and abnormalities of the spinal fluid. Both are treated by various clinicians including osteopaths, dentists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists.

Specific Treatment Options for Headaches

Products for Treatment

Where Do Headaches Come From?

Sources of headaches are often a combination of factors, including musculoskeletal, psychological, neurovascular, nutritional, and chemical imbalances in the brain. Headaches tend to run in families. Some headaches relate to or are indicative of a disease process; some are life-threatening and others benign. Thus, a thorough medical evaluation is necessary with any onset of a new or ongoing headache. Most researchers agree that there is a musculoskeletal component in tension-type, cervicogenic, and TMJ disorder related headaches.

Many have sought numerous different treatment approaches, have accepted that their headaches are a fact of life, and have become dependent on medications to relieve their symptoms.

Common Types of Headaches

Headaches – History, Examination and What to Expect

The good news for headache sufferers is that once a correct headache diagnosis is made, an effective treatment plan can be started.

If your headache symptoms become worse or become more frequent despite treatment, ask your doctor for a referral to a headache specialist.

Preparing for Your Visit with a Doctor

Keep and bring a lifestyle diary of headache frequency

Keeping a headache diary, particularly when you first begin to have headaches, can help identify the triggers for your headaches so you can avoid them. When a headache occurs, write down the date and time it started. Note what you ate for the preceding 24 hours, how long you slept the night before, what you were doing just before the headache, any unusual stress in your life, how long the headache lasted, and what you did to make it stop as well as the symptoms you felt while having the headache.

Other lifestyle measures that may reduce the number of migraines include:

And be prepared to answer: