Why do I have a headache?

A headache or migraine can be the result of many things. They can be caused by musculoskeletal issues, neurological issues, hormonal imbalance or metabolic changes – or a combination of any and all of these.

A headache is often pushed aside or ignored as a fact of life; simply taking a pain killing tablet like paracetamol or ibuprofen will often dull the pain so we can get on with life.

Types of headaches

Most people don’t realise that there are many different types of headaches.

Depending on where the pain is felt, and the root cause of your headache, treatment will differ.

Here are just a few examples:

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches occur, as their name suggests, in bouts. Sufferers of cluster headaches can experience a headache up to four times a day, lasting anything from 15 minutes to three hours. Cluster headaches are particularly difficult to cope with because sufferers often have headaches everyday.

Cluster headaches present as an ache in any part of the head including:

  • temple
  • top of head
  • behind the eyes

The term ‘cluster headache’ refers to the pattern and frequency of the headache, not its location.

Should you see a chiropractor for cluster headaches? The short answer is yes. Often, pain killers and other drug treatments will only mask cluster headache symptoms whereas a chiropractor will get to the root cause of your headache and treat that, hopefully preventing you from suffering in the future.

Dehydration Headaches

One of the most common types of headache is a dehydration headache. This doesn’t have to be related to the obvious potential causes such as alcohol consumption or excessive sweating, although of course, these won’t help. Most of us fail to drink enough water on a daily basis.

Consuming foods high in salt, caffeine and sugar will increase our requirement for water and, if we don’t respond to this, we are likely to experience a dehydration headache.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are caused mainly by an infection, such as the common cold. A sinus headache is actually a kind of tension headache caused by inflammation in the lining of the nose and upper airways. Sinus headache sufferers may feel they have a pressure headache, as the inflammation of the sinuses can often be felt around the nose and jaw.

Should you see a chiropractor for sinus headaches? Even though sinus headaches are often caused by a cold or infection, a chiropractor will be experienced in chronic sinus headache treatment and will be able to undertake techniques to alleviate the pressure that is causing the headache.

Cervicogenic Headaches (neck pain headache)

Neck pain and headache pain often go hand in hand. A ‘neck headache’ may be the result of tension, even as far down as the shoulders, sitting awkwardly, or can follow an injury such as whiplash.

Symptoms could be:

  • stiff neck and headache
  • headache in back of neck and head
  • headache at top of neck
  • headache neck and shoulder pain
  • headache when bending neck
  • neck and shoulder tension headache
  • shoulder pain
  • neck pain

Should you see a chiropractor for neck pain and headaches? A chiropractor will know how to help neck pain and headaches so, no matter whether you have neck problems which are creating the headache, or your headache is making you tense and therefore causing neck pain, you will get the right treatment of the root cause of the problem.

A chiropractor will equally treat the shoulder pain causing neck pain and headaches and any other issues which might be contributing.

Period Headaches

Period headaches, also called hormonal headaches, are another common type of headache. Your menstrual cycle, pregnancy or the menopause can all cause them. If they are consistently appearing at a certain time of the month, extra sleep or small, regular meals can help ease them.

Migraine Headache

A migraine headache can be a hereditary condition or might be associated with other nervous system conditions. They cause an intense pulsing pain from deep within your head. They throb and often cause other physical symptoms such as sickness, flashing lights in the eyes (or other visual disturbances) and light or sound sensitivity.

Migraine headache causes are often association with but not limited to dysfunction in particular cranial nerves which originate in your brain stem. Also, depending on how well your eyes move together, or their ability to fixate (stare) on a given target, can contribute to migraines. Your brain perceives the world through your eyes and any breakdown in their functionality cause contribute to migraines.  

What causes headaches?

Most headaches are either caused by, or exacerbated by, stress, poor posture, squinting, tiredness, poor eye movement control, missing meals or a lack of physical activity and an incredible 10% are actually caused by the painkillers we take to avoid them!

Headache symptoms

Headache symptoms vary depending on the type of headache you have. It can be located anywhere in the head and neck region.

Light or sound sensitivity

Light or sound sensitivity is a common cause of headaches. There is a part of our brain stem which is responsible for processing this type of information. If it becomes over-stimulated, a light sensitivity headache is often the result.

Sinus headache

Sinus headaches are a dull throbbing pain in the face and sinus area around the nose. They are often mistaken for a sinus infection but are the result of any cold or allergy.

Tension headache

Tension headache symptoms are often a dull, aching sensation all over your head. They aren’t a throbbing headache. You could also experience tenderness or sensitivity around your neck, forehead, scalp or shoulders.

Cluster headache

Cluster headaches are characterised by severe burning and piercing pain (sometimes referred to as an ‘ice pick headache’), felt behind the eye or as a one sided headache.

What does a chiropractor do for headaches?

As with all chiropractic treatments, the approach to diagnosing and treating a headache or migraine begins with a holistic examination. A chiropractor will look at the musculoskeletal elements of your body to find out whether anything is tight or trapped as this could easily cause a headache. Following that, your chiropractor will assess you from a neurological perspective (for example, is there a mismatch between your brains signals and what your body needs) and then they will look at your hormonal and metabolic systems.

People who suffer from regular headaches or migraines might need some lifestyle changes depending on what their triggers are. Ultimately, the chiropractors at London Wellness Centre will work to get to the root cause of the pain, rather than simply treating the pain itself.

Because many headaches are associated with stress and tension – which means tight muscles or poor posture, seeing a chiropractor can reduce your chance of suffering, decrease the severity and the frequency and, in most cases, reduce entirely the need to rely on painkillers. A chiropractor will be able to reduce your risk of suffering again by loosening muscles or alleviating stress-inducing conditions, such as sciatica, trapped nerves or other muscle and joint pain.

At the London Wellness Centre, we take a helicopter view of your body, treating your existing conditions as well as equipping you to avoid future suffering through chiropractic adjustments or lifestyle changes.

Most commonly, treatment will involve chiropractic adjustments to the neck and upper back, muscular techniques such as dry needling, eye movement exercises or lifestyle recommendations to treat people suffering from headaches and migraines.

Your Diet & Your Headache

If your headache is related to your diet, your chiropractor may suggest an elimination diet to ascertain whether the trigger is related to a particular food group. It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that what we eat can generate headaches. Think about where you would put a tablet to ease the pain of a headache: you would swallow it. It therefore stands to reason that what we consume can affect all parts of our body.

In the case of a headache caused by light and/or sound sensitivity, your chiropractor may suggest ways to decrease the impact of these sensitivities. Wearing red tinted glasses and plugging your ears are common solutions for this; as the brain receives less stimulation in that area, the headache should reduce.

How to relieve a headache

Headaches can be relieved in different ways, depending on their cause. In all cases, headaches can be temporarily relieved by using painkillers but, for a longer-term solution, you should consider treatments such as relaxation techniques, acupuncture or chiropractic treatments.

A chiropractor will identify the root cause of your headache and then treat this, rather than just the pain itself.

Here are seven top tips for preventing headaches:

Perfect your posture

Stand up straight, relax your shoulders, tuck your chin and check yourself out in the nearest mirror.

Check your tech

Try to have screens at eye level (that includes your phone) to reduce the force going through your neck.

Limit your carry on baggage

Remove unnecessary items, and if you can’t use a rucksack (both shoulders) then alternate the sides to share the load.


Little and often, or lots and often, but drink more water!

Reduce stress

Stress is a critical factor in headaches and migraines. If you have a stressful job, try and do some deep breathing/ mindfulness for at least 10 minutes every day.

Goodnight, sleep well

Sleep in a natural, neutral position and ensure your pillow supports in the natural curve in your neck.

How to relieve a migraine

Migraines are more complex than headaches, since they can occur as a result of many different root causes. In the same way as the cause will vary from person to person, the treatment which works to alleviate pain will also be very individual.

By seeing a chiropractor, you guarantee getting closer to the root cause of your migraines. In doing so, there is a higher chance you can resolve the issue causing them rather than simply keep treating the symptoms. Many clients find that our chiropractic adjustments or deep tissue massage can help with headaches and reduces their frequency and severity.

A few facts about headaches

types of headaches

There are over 150 types of headache. Each have their own set of symptoms and treatments

what type of headache do I have?

Identifying your type of headache is paramount as they respond best to different treatments

headache causes and cures

The pain comes from a mix of signals between your brain, the blood vessels and nearby nerves; often neck pain from joints, muscles and ligaments can lead to headaches

If you would like more information about our treatments or want to find out how we may be able to help you with a specific problem please call us on 020 7531 4444