Headache FAQs

What are the most common types of headaches? 

Tension-type headache – Mild to moderate pain that feels like a tight band around the head.

Migraine headache – Recurrent attacks of moderate to severe throbbing and pulsating pain on one side of the head.

Cervicogenic headache – Pain on one side of the head caused by muscles and joints in the upper neck. This is the most common type of headache treated by chiropractors.

How do I know if my headache is coming from my neck?

Cervicogenic headaches typically present with pain, stiffness, and tension of the muscles and joints of the upper part of the neck (the suboccipital area). Cervicogenic headaches are most commonly one-sided but may be present on both sides of the head. The pain often radiates from the base of the skull toward the top of the head and sometimes over the eyes. In rare instances, the pain may travel into the arm. These headache episodes may last from hours to days. The pain is continuous but fluctuating and is often described as "deep."  Neck tenderness and stiffness may also occur. 

What causes a cervicogenic headache?

Cervicogenic headaches are frequently caused by fixed postures, including a "slouched" or "forward head" posture which occurs with sedentary positions such as sitting in front of a computer or scrolling through a cell phone. These headaches are also common in patients who have recently experienced trauma, especially a whiplash from a motor vehicle accident, or an earlier concussion.

How are cervicogenic headaches treated?

Research studies have reported that chiropractic care is an effective treatment for acute and chronic cervicogenic headaches. At Gelley Chiropractic, you will receive a thorough health and medical history followed by a comprehensive physical exam. Your neck and upper back will be examined, including spinal movements, muscle palpation, and neurologic testing (sensation, reflexes, strength, and balance) to find out what is causing your headache and rule out any findings that may require a medical referral.

We will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that may consist of any of these treatments recommended by the Canadian Chiropractic Guideline Initiative (CCGI): spinal manipulation/mobilization, soft tissue therapy, home exercises (postural correction, stretches, strengthening) along with lifestyle and nutritional changes.  

Can chiropractic care help with migraine headaches?

Medical doctors often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, and muscle relaxants for migraine symptoms. However, these treatments do not fully address the problems underlying these symptoms. Many patients will see a chiropractor for migraines because they also experience symptoms such as neck pain and stiffness.   Study results on the effectiveness of chiropractic care for migraine headaches is encouraging. Some studies suggest chiropractic care may be as effective as some preventive medications that physicians prescribe, such as propranolol (Inderal) and topiramate (Topamax). Chiropractic care for migraines may involve soft tissue therapies and/or spinal manipulation (adjustments), along with advice on posture, exercise, and nutrition.

How do I know if my headache is something more serious?

Please go to your nearest hospital emergency department if you experience any of the following:

  • Worsening headache with fever
  • Sudden onset of headache reaching maximum intensity within 5 minutes
  • Sudden change in personality or impaired level of consciousness
  • Headaches triggered by coughing, sneezing, or exercising
  • Eye pain, halos around lights, double vision, or vision loss