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Migraines

The most common diagnosis for a very intense headache is a migraine. A migraine is a type of headache where the blood flow to your brain is affected temporarily.

When you get the ‘aura’ that is when the blood flow to your brain decreases and depending on which part is affected the ‘aura’ will be different for all sufferers. Some patients will see spots or flashes, others will get numbness in the face or even ringing in their ears. On top of this nausea and sensitivity to light are a usual event at the same time. At some stage the brain realises that there is an insufficiency of blood supply and it over-reacts. It widens your blood vessels too much and the extra blood rushing in will cause distention of pain sensitive structures in the head and causes pain. Triggers for migraines can be any stimulus which upsets your body chemistry or your nervous system. These range from foods to sounds to smells or stress. In general it is best to avoid your triggers. Osteopathy can lend a hand with decreasing the symptoms which tend to take place at the same time - such as neck and shoulder tightness - which can be a result of the pain, but we cannot ‘fix’ a migraine. The only real relief in these cases is avoiding your triggers or taking migraine medication.
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Neck (Cervicogenic) Headaches

These headaches are very often mistaken for migraines by many medical practitioners because many symptoms are the same. These headaches can involve nausea because a large nerve which originates at the very top of the neck innervates your digestive system. When this nerve gets irritated your will feel nauseous. You can get mild visual changes as a result of a particular nerve bundle towards the top of the neck getting irritated which also innervates aspects of your eyes. Finally you can also get tingling in the face or arms as a result of the tight muscles in your neck.

The actual headache comes from a rather confusing loop which your neck nerves make as they go into the processing centres of the brain. They crossover with a big nerve that goes into your face and the most common pain pattern with this sort of headache is an arc of pain from the upper neck over the side of your head and behind the eyes on the affected side - or both sides. The key difference from a migraine is that we can do a clinical test for this sort of headache and reproduce your familiar pain whereas with a migraine this is not possible. Often pain medication has a very minimal effect on this sort of headache.
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Muscle Related Headaches

This type of headache is very varied. Many of the neck and upper shoulder muscles can send pain into various parts of the head rather than hurting locally. For example, the muscles at the top of your neck can send pain into the back of your head. Muscles along the top of your shoulders can send pain into your temples. And so on. These types of headaches can easily be tested in clinic. If we find the correct muscle - it will give you your familiar headache - but only temporarily. Then we fix it.

A variety of anti-inflammatories and pain relieving medication can have a temporary effect on these headaches, but they usually come back as soon as the muscles in question are loaded again. Other muscles which can cause facial and head pain are located around the jaw joint. These muscles will often give the impression of headache, sinus pain or even a toothache. It’s reasonably easy for you to distinguish these sorts of headaches from the others because they will get worse when you eat, chew, sing or otherwise use your jaw and mouth.

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