A Brief Overview: By: Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N.


It’s estimated that over 45 million Americans experience headaches with health care costs reaching to an estimated 1 billion a year. With such a common and sometimes debilitating experience, how often are pain meds the first resort to relieve the systems? Instead lets take a look and dig deeper into the most common types of headaches and take into consideration, triggers, specific signs and symptoms and other associated factors that can help distinguish between headaches that affect the body.

Sinus Headache – Pressure and pain over the forehead, cheeks and within the oral cavity.  It’s estimated that 90% of these headaches are misdiagnosed as migraines. Usually sinus headaches stem from allergies, viral or bacterial infections.  Pain may be aggravated when bending over, coughing or chewing.

Some things to keep in mind: avoid known allergies (food and seasonal).  Utilize warm compresses over sinuses and a vaporizer to promote drainage.  Ginger, Bromelain, Turmeric, Feverfew, B complex, vitamin C and E have all been shown to provide relief.

Tension (Cervicogenic) Headache – Pain and tightness located from the neck to the base of the skull (suboccipital area), forehead, and temporal area.  Usually these headaches stem from postural strain like when studying or doing deskwork, but can also be from stress or temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ).   Symptoms seem to get worse as the day goes on, increase in intensity and occur daily.  Range of motion and flexibility in the neck and shoulders can be limited due to tightness in the neck region.

Some things to keep in mind: Be aware of posture and avoid awkward head positions.  Strengthening while lengthening the muscles in neck, upper back and shoulders relieve pain while increasing endurance in these areas keep the body functioning optimally throughout the day.  Avoid known allergies (food and seasonal).  Magnesium, Calcium and Valerian root have all been shown to be beneficial in relieving symptoms.

Mind_Chau1(Pictured: DEFINE client : Chau Neason,  Photo By Christi Minter )

Hypertensive Headache – Discomfort and pulsating pain either behind one eye or at the base of the skull (suboccipital area) that’s worse in the morning.  Associated factors are stress, lack of exercise, high sodium diet, high blood pressure, cardiovascular and renal disease.  Note– sustained high blood pressure can be detrimental to the body and should always be examined further.  These headaches tend to get worse when reclining and better when elevating the head or when seated.

Some things to keep in mind: Avoid known allergies (food and seasonal).  Maintain a high fiber and low sodium diet.  Avoid excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol.  Magnesium, Calcium, Garlic, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), Vitamin C and Potassium have all been shown to be beneficial in relieving symptoms.

Cluster Headache – Although it’s the least common of the headaches listed, it can be the most intense.  They cause severe pain typically behind one eye lasting anywhere from 4-6 weeks at the same time everyday.  They occur in clusters, hence the name, attacking 2-3 times in a day.  Nausea and sensitivity to light can be seen.  Incidence can increase in the spring and fall; associated causes can be infection, toxins and serotonin imbalances.

Some things to keep mind: Avoid known allergies (food and seasonal), monitor intake of sodium, alcohol, coffee and teas.  Reduce stress and the glare that can be associated with it.  Nutritional support: Calcium, Magnesium, Choline, Valerian Root, Passionflower and Capsaicin have been shown to be beneficial.

Migraine Headache – Can occur on one or both sides of the head, sometimes visual and GI disturbances can occur before the migraine hits.  More commonly seen in females between the ages of 10-30 years of age.  Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise that may all be aggravated with physical activity.  Diet, hormonal changes, hereditary factors and daily activities have all been linked to triggering migraines. If you suffer from migraines or know someone who does, join me May 4th at Tanglewood from 1-230 for my workshop specifically on migraines.  We will cover what areas of the body are affected, common triggers and associated factors that can set off a migraine, followed by strengthening and stretching of the associated muscles.  Use the tools covered during the workshop to be better prepared for the next time a migraine hits!

The body is truly amazing in many ways! In a sense it speaks to you when something is not right. Pain, fatigue, swelling the list goes on of how the body communicates with you.  More often than not, we tend to ignore the subtle signs and symptoms and focus more on the “significant” ones.  I challenge you to pay attention to the body; take a closer look to how speaks and take control of your health today!

Lori_frontblogImageDEFINE’s senior instructor and anatomy specialist, Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N. is a doctor in chiropractic and registered nurse. Her love for helping people through education about anatomy and physiology drives her to continue to share her experiences and knowledge with others as they persue their journey towards health and restoration!

More of Lori’s Articles HERE.