Tuesday, March 11, 2014


There is so much confusion on the topic of headaches. There are different ways to classify headaches. Some ways are considered outdated and incorrect. Many headaches are often misdiagnosed. The National Institutes of Health published a nice synopsis. There are many other reputable sources of information regarding this topic.

Generally speaking, there are two types. Within each of these types, there are subtypes. The first type of headache is vascular (from blood vessels). The most common within this type is a Migraine. The second type of headache is muscular. These account for approximately 90% of all headaches.

Migraine Headache

Since this is the most common type of vascular headache, let's discuss migraines.

Migraine headaches can be differentiated from muscle tension headaches in several ways:
  • In many cases, there is a prodromal stage. This is were there is a sensation that it is about to start.
  • Pain is often described as intense and presents as a pulsing or throbbing sensation. The pain may be severe enough to incapacitate a person which may keep them from carrying out daily responsibilities.
  • The area of pain is most often on one side of the head (but can be on both sides).
  • There may be light or sound hypersensitivity.
  • The vast majority of migraine headache sufferers are women.
Muscle Tension Headache

As previously mentioned, most headaches (approximately 90%) are tension headaches. Many people misdiagnose themselves and incorrectly classify their headaches as migraines.

Tension headaches develop when excessive muscular contraction occurs in any of the muscles of the head and neck. This is primarily in the muscles associated with chewing. Check out the blog on clenching and grinding for additional insight. Head position or posture can cause prolonged and chronic contraction as well. The pain will then originate from a different set of overworked muscles.

I often tell my patients that if they were to exercise a muscle group for an hour each day, then that would be just fine. However, if they were to exercise for 10, 15, 20 or more hours each day, we can see why there would be pain associated with the involved muscles. Chronic muscle contraction from either clenching of the jaw or because of compromised posture, will predictably lead to chronic pain of the involved muscles. 

Other Headaches

There are other types of headaches such as cluster headaches, toxic headaches and sinus headaches. If you are suffering from chronic headaches or from intense headaches, then a consultation with your physician is indicated.  Your physician can diagnose the type of headache and the appropriate treatment can be rendered.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit www.advanced-smiles.com

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