Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced a migraine headache. Or was it a tension headache? Or perhaps a cervicogenic headache? Wait, there’s more than one type of headache?

Yup! In fact there are several different reasons you might be experiencing head pain (sinus pressure, concussion, dehydration), but todays discussion is being restricted to diagnosing the 4 primary headache types: Classic Migraines, Tension, Cervicogenic and Cluster.


Classic Migraine:

  • Moderate-severe throbbing pain on one side of the head (rarely both sides)

  • Nausea/Vomiting

  • Pain lasting for 4-72 hours

  • Visual disturbances (may see floaters)

  • May experience an aura, prodrome (24-48 hours prior to onset)

  • Stabbing pain

  • Increased sensitivity to lights and sounds

  • Starting in adolescence

  • Responds well to medications

  • May be affected by diet and sleep



  • Dull/achy pain on both sides of the head (feels like head is in a vice)

  • Most common headache type

  • Not triggered with movement

  • Onset common with periods of high stress

  • Sensitive to light or sound

  • Non-Throbbing pain

  • No Nausea

  • Responds well to Chiropractic and Acupuncture



  • History of neck trauma (like whiplash) that started the pain

  • Pain that has continually lasted for hours-weeks

  • Pain made worse with movement of the neck

  • Moderate-severe, non-throbbing, achy pain

  • Pain on one side of the head (rarely both sided)

  • No nausea

  • Responds well to Chiropractic care



  • Rarest of the 4 types affecting less than 1% of the population

  • Severe/Disabling pain for 15-180 minutes

  • Triggered by alcohol

  • Affects are sometimes seasonal

  • Sharp, burning, severe pain commonly felt behind the eye

  • Starts at the age of 20-40

  • Nausea/vomiting is common

  • Treatment: steroids, Calcium Channel Blockers, gamma knife surgery


So what does it matter what kind of headache it is? Well, each type is unique and responds differently to care. Classic migraines respond very well to medications like aspirin and acetaminophen, however tension and cervicogenic headaches respond well to chiropractic care and acupuncture. In fact, a medication-rebound-headache is a secondary headache disorder caused by "acute medication" overuse when treating existing headache disorders. Overuse results in increased headache intensity and frequency, and increased sensitivity to headache triggers as well as decreased effectiveness of acute and prophylactic medication.

Before reaching for that bottle of aspirin, take the time to review the chart below and talk with your doctor about matching the right treatment for the right headache.

HA Diagram (EBP).jpg