Headaches are just that, your head aches. When you are suffering from a headache and seeking medical advice, a common question you will hear is “what type of headache do you have”? Knowing the different types of headaches and their causes, can help find the most effective treatment.
Some common headaches include:
A tension headache begins slowly and can be felt across the forehead just above the eyes. This type of headache may feel as though a tight band is around your head. Radiating pain down the back of the neck and into the shoulders. A pain level of mild to moderate. Tension headaches can last for a few hours; depending on your stress level, a tension headache can last for several days. Unfortunately, due to work, health and other contributing factors, tension headaches can become a chronic ailment, requiring intervention from your doctor.
Cluster headaches behave just as their name describes, in clusters. Several headaches or groups of headaches can come on in waves lasting 20 minutes or longer. Typically, a cluster headache is very severe on the pain scale and for the average suffer come on suddenly in the middle of the night. Other side effects of a cluster headache include nasal stuffiness, drooping eyelid and tearing of the eyes. Although rare, cluster headaches can afflict a sufferer for weeks and or months at a time. Non-life threatening, cluster headaches can be treated by your doctor, making them shorter and or less severe.
Sinus headaches are very common for those that live in damper climates like Vancouver. A sinus headache can be an early sign of a sinus infection. A sinus headache will present with a lot of pressure in the areas of your eyes, forehead and nose. Putting your head forward can cause that pressure and pain increase. A sinus headache is usually accompanied by congestion, a runny nose, fatigue and an achy feeling in your upper teeth or gums.
A migraine can be debilitating, with severe throbbing pain typically on one side of the head. Migraine sufferers have reported their headaches lasting from hours to days, usually requiring them to be in complete silence and darkness. For some, a migraine can present early warning signals called “auras” including flashes of light, a tingling sensation in their face, or blind spots. Recurring migraines should be treated by your doctor to confirm there is not an underlying medical concern causing the migraine.
Headaches are disruptive, whether it be a tension, sinus, cluster or migraine headache. Knowing the symptoms of the different types of headaches will better assist you and your doctor in determining what is the best treatment to eliminate the pain and other symptoms that can come with a headache. Treatment centres like the BC Head Pain Institute in Vancouver can work with you to determine the type, cause and treatment of your head pain.
The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your jawbone to the rest of your skull. A common disorder known as TMJD (temporomandibular disorder) occurs when the muscles and surrounding tissue become painful, often resulting in a range of symptoms including headaches. TMJD is thought to be caused by any of the following conditions:
- Grinding or Clenching teeth during sleep
- Physical Injury
Grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep can sometimes lead to TMJD, although not always. While there are many factors that can contribute to teeth grinding and clenching, this act can put extra strain on the TMJ, resulting in pain.
Another cause of TMJD is physical injury. This occurs when the joint itself is damaged by physical force such as a blow or impact. It may also be caused by medical procedures such as breathing tubes being inserted, or some dental or orthodontic procedures requiring the jaw to be forced open for a longer time period.
Arthritis is also a risk factor for developing TMJD. The cartilage disks within the joint may become damaged due to various types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. This corrosion of the cartilage can result in the jaw movement no longer being smooth, leading to pain and other symptoms.
Because TMJD can result in chronic headaches and other pain issues, it is important to get treatment if your symptoms do not go away on their own. Common treatments include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, and muscle relaxants. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections or even Arthroscopic surgery may be required to fix the problem.
If you are struggling and looking for TMJ headache relief, now might be the time to make an appointment with your TMJ specialist in Vancouver to get the relief you need.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the technical term for tooth grinding and clenching. Bruxism can lead to several health problems such as:
- Tooth wear
- Broken teeth
- Sore jaw and loss of jaw movement
- Chronic headaches
The causes of Bruxism are not fully understood, but symptoms tend to worsen when under stress. Many dentists will provide soft mouthguards to reduced the damage to teeth, however this may not help with chronic headaches. In addition, if left untreated, chronic headaches can lead to debilitating migraines. It is therefore important to find headache relief.
How to find headache relief?
First and foremost, look at trying to address possible reasons you may be clenching your jaw. Look at bad habits and stressors in your life and try to address these. Find other ways to reduce stress such as regular exercise, and prioritizing tasks. Another remedy is to clear your mind using various meditation techniques. Practicing daily meditation for 10-15 minutes a day before sleeping helps to clear your mind and reduce stress. This may lead to a more relaxed jaw during sleep.
It is also important to work on developing better posture. Poor posture can translate into chronic nerve pain, also resulting in chronic headaches. Also make sure to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol before sleeping, as these may also increase the prevalence of bruxism while sleeping. Following these steps maybe not only reduce the headaches associated with bruxism, but also increase your overall health.
What are common migraine symptoms?
Because there are a number of different types of migraines, migraine symptoms can vary greatly. Not everyone with a migraine will experience every symptom, and two migraine sufferers may have a completely different experience from one another.
Those who experience severe migraines should seek the help of a professional to alleviate their symptoms and help them to determine the root cause of their migraine. Some migraines may be a result of a more serious medical condition.
Some of the common symptoms of a migraine include:
- Pulsating or throbbing pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to sounds
- Changes to vision, often blurriness
- Pain specific to one side
What to do when you have a migraine?
If you are experiencing migraines, keep track of the occurrences in a journal. Track the dates, lengths, and types of pain or symptoms you are experiencing when you have a migraine. Make note if anything makes the symptoms worse or if anything alleviates them.
When you go to speak to your healthcare practitioner about your migraines, this journal can be key to sorting out what may be triggering your migraines and how to treat them. In some cases, migraines may be hereditary or they may be caused by injury, illness, or any number of external triggers.
If you are experiencing any of these common migraine symptoms, be sure to let your health care team know. They can help you to avoid future migraines and can help you know what to do when you experience one to alleviate the symptoms.
Clenching your jaw has a strong connection to getting headaches. While not all headaches are caused by jaw clenching, most people who do clench their jaws tend to get headaches and sometimes migraines. The primary joint in the jaw structure (the temporomandibular joint or TMJ) is connect to the nerve that is often involved in causing migraines, so clenching of the jaw can cause both migraines and tension headaches from clenching of the muscles around the neck and head.
In general, two types of jaw clenching are common bruxism, when one grinds their teeth or clenches their jaw excessively, and TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder) which effects the jaw joint and may be caused by stress, injury, or a number of other dental causes.
Treatments can vary for jaw clenching, and will differ depending on which type of clenching you are experiencing and what is causing the clenching. To complicate things, sometimes jaw clenching can actually be caused by headaches that have a different cause – creating an endless cycle of headaches and jaw problems. This is why it is important to consult with a professional to determine the best course of treatment for your jaw concerns and headaches.
One of the simplest ways to try to stop headaches caused by jaw clenching is to become aware when you are clenching your jaw. Take note throughout the day if you are clenching your teeth, and make a conscious effort to relax your jaw. This can make a world of difference to your headaches. Over time, you may be able to build a habit of keeping your jaw relaxed throughout the day.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is described as a problem with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in the jaw – usually causing pain with chewing, speaking, or other movement – and often causing headaches.
Causes of TMD
TMD is usually caused by a combination of concerns. Some of these potential causes may include:
- Jaw injury
- Joint disease
- Teeth clenching
- Teeth grinding
- Head and neck tension
- Incorrectly fit dentures
- Nail biting
However, TMD can be a vicious cycle that also causes some of the same symptoms that can create the disorder in the first place. For this reason, it is sometimes hard to determine whether the symptom is a result of the TMD or if the TMD is being caused by it.
TMD is a painful condition that affects many. Luckily, some treatments are simple and can be done at home. Some suggested treatments for TMD include warm or cold compress, massage of the neck and jaw muscles, avoiding hard to chew or sticky foods, and relaxation of the jaw muscles.
In cases of extreme TMJ pain that is not helped by the above suggestions, intervention by a dentist may be indicated. Examination by a dentist who is familiar with the disorder may be of great help to finding relief. A dentist exam for TMD may include x-rays as well as a physical exam.
If your pain continues, further intervention may be necessary – sometimes including surgery.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a fairly common neck injury, most commonly caused by rear-end motor vehicle accidents. The injury usually involves a strain, sprain, or tear in the soft tissues of the neck which happens when there is a sudden and severe movement in the neck.
Nearly twenty percent of people involved in rear-end car accidents experience neck issues following the event, and some people may find that they continue to have problems such as headaches resulting from the injury for years to come.
Headaches from Whiplash
Pain from whiplash is often worse in the days following the injury, but some symptoms such as headaches may last chronically after the injury is seemingly healed. Common issues resulting from whiplash include neck stiffness, reduced range of motion, neck pain, and headaches.
Headaches resulting from whiplash are usually centered at the back of the head, and are what is known as “cervicogenic” headaches – meaning they are secondary pains caused by a disorder in the cervical spine.
Whiplash sprains usually heal gradually with time and appropriate treatments. A number of treatments are commonly used for whiplash, and subsequent headaches, including: a collar worn around the neck for comfort, medications such as anti-inflammatories, cold and hot packs, physiotherapy, and sometimes surgery which may be deemed necessary with persistent severe headaches.
Headaches are a fairly common and persistent symptom following a whiplash injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, headache symptoms may fade over time – or may require surgery to correct.
Headaches can be debilitating to day-to-day life. Often headaches are caused by stress, dehydration, underlying medical conditions – and sometimes the cause may remain unknown. One lesser known cause of headaches may be malocclusion, which is the condition when one’s bite is misaligned. Braces or other orthodontic treatments are usually used to fix a misaligned bite, and can help to alleviate the headache symptoms of malocclusion.
Malocclusion is a condition in which the top and bottom jaws do not properly align. For a number of reasons, improper alignment of the jaws is fairly common, causing issues with biting and speech – and placing strain on the temporomandibular joints and muscles that control the jaw. Often people with malocclusion have crooked teeth, overbites or underbites, and sometimes tooth decay can be prevalent. Additionally, headaches are common in those who have misaligned jaws.
How to Help Headaches from Malocclusion
Your orthodontist is the best person to address malocclusion – likely through the use of braces to guide the teeth into a more suitable position. A better bite pattern will help to relieve pressure on the jaw muscles and joints, and in turn can alleviate headache symptoms.
Many people may ignore their headache symptoms as being caused by stress or another cause, but when the headaches are frequently accompanied by facial or jaw pain – misalignment of the teeth may be a factor. If you believe that you are experiencing headaches due to malocclusion, you should aim to see your orthodontist for an exam.
Headaches relating to TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) are often misdiagnosed, often being diagnosed as a tension or stress headache. TMJ headaches are unique in a number of ways, but are often preventable and treatable – which could be a huge relief for those whose TMJ pains have been misdiagnosed. By accurately defining what is different about a TMJ headache, we can help patients to find relief before the pain becomes unbearable.
TMJ pain is often accompanied by a number of other symptoms. If you suspect you may be experiencing TMJ pain, pay attention to see if you also experience any of the following:
- Stiffness in the jaw, sometimes making it difficult to open and close your mouth;
- A cracking or grinding noise when you move your jaw;
- Pain or tenderness throughout the face and neck; and
There are also a number of symptoms that are unlikely to happen along with TMJ pain, but would show up with other types of headaches. If you are experiencing the following, then TMJ is unlikely to be the direct cause of your headache:
- Sensitivity to light;
- Sensitivity to sound; and
However, a TMJ headache can trigger a migraine which may present with the above symptoms – which is why it is so important to determine if you headache started with any of the traditional symptoms of TMJ pain or not.
Addressing your head pain is vital to your overall health. If your pain is being caused by issues with your TMJ, there may be ways to both prevent and treat the disorder – providing relief where you could not get it before.
Tinnitus is a symptom which can be caused by a health disorder (or sometimes multiple disorders). Tinnitus is not a disease in itself and is often a sensorineural reaction in the brain to damage to another part of the body – often in the ear or auditory system.
Tinnitus can often be caused by the following issues:
- Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus – some researchers believe that tinnitus cannot exist without some form of prior damage having been done to the auditory system. Hearing loss can be a result of a number of factors.
- Middle Ear Obstructions
A blockage in the ear can cause pressure to build up and affect the normal function of the ear drum. Additionally, a blockage which directly touches the ear drum can also irritate the ear drum and cause tinnitus symptoms.
- Head or Neck Trauma
Nerve, blood flow, and muscle issues from head or neck trauma can cause perception of tinnitus symptoms. Often patients who report head or neck injury as the cause of their tinnitus also report higher volume of tinnitus, as well as a greater variability of sound and frequency.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
Damage to the muscles, ligaments, cartilage in the TMJ can lead to tinnitus symptoms as the TMJ is adjacent to the auditory system and shares some of the same ligaments and nerve connections with the middle ear.
- Sinus Pressure
Nasal congestion can create abnormal pressure in the middle ear, impacting normal hearing and potentially causing symptoms of tinnitus. Acute pressure changes can cause actual damage to the middle ear, which may cause tinnitus.
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Brain injury caused by concussive shock can change the brain’s auditory processing abilities and are known to generate tinnitus symptoms. TBI is one of the main catalysts for tinnitus in military populations.
- Ototoxic Drugs
Many prescription medications can potentially cause tinnitus – in most cases this is a short-lived affect that tapers off once the medication is discontinued. There are some drug types that have been known to cause permanent tinnitus symptoms, including certain antibiotics and diuretics.
If you are experience tinnitus symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that it has been caused by one of the above conditions – it is best to always speak with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing tinnitus to ensure it is properly diagnosed and treated.
Tinnitus is a subjective condition, meaning that the symptom is generally only noticeable to the person suffering from it. However, there are some clinical methods to measuring its audiometric qualities and its impact on the patient. The first step is appropriately diagnosing tinnitus, so how is this condition evaluated?
A trained audiologist or other hearing health professional has tools and clinical protocols to help them to evaluate and diagnose tinnitus. Often, tinnitus is caused by hearing loss – so the first step is to evaluate a patient’s overall hearing health. Tests for this can include:
- Acoustic Reflex Testing;
- Speech Recognition Testing;
- Pure Tone Audiograms;
- Tympanograms; and
- Otoacousc Emission Testing.
Often, gaps in a patient’s hearing correlate to the nature of their issue with tinnitus. Additionally, different markers found by the above tests may point in various types of treatment for the tinnitus.
When evaluating a patient’s case of tinnitus, several methods are use to test the patient’s perception of their tinnitus for sound, pitch, and volume. Tests may include:
- Sound matching;
- Masking level; and
- Loudness discomfort level.
In some extreme cases, a doctor may recommend an MRI depending on the patient’s medical history and specific tinnitus presentations.
Tinnitus can affect so much more than just a patient’s hearing – it may have serious negative effect on the mental, cognitive, and physical health of the patient as well. One of the major factors a physician needs to determine when evaluating tinnitus is not how loud the sound is, but rather how much the condition is negatively impacting the patient’s life.
Because of this, health professionals and researchers use the above tests to determine tinnitus diagnoses, but also use a variety of specific tests such as a reaction questionnaire, a severity index, and a function index. When combined, all these tests will help the professional to diagnose tinnitus.