Headaches can come in many different varieties. There are those generalized, dull headaches that you might get after a stressful situation, intense aura migraines that force sufferers into darkness, and even “thunderclap” headaches that peak in under a minute but can knock a grown man to the floor in agony. However, one type of headache that tends to generate the most concern is the one where it feels like there is pressure being applied to the inside of the skull. These headaches come with their fair share of questions and frantic medical searches, and for good reason: the only things you ever want in your cranial cavity are your brain and the fluid surrounding it. If you are looking for possible solutions, chiropractic treatment for headaches is a great option you can try, among others.
So, what do these pressure headaches really indicate? Are they always as serious as they seem? If you’re feeling pressure in your head, is it a sign of something worse, or can it be benign?
Before you begin to panic over that weird feeling in your head, it’s best to gather as much information as possible on it first. Where a headache seems to be located in particular can tell a lot about what is being affected by it. For instance, a headache located primarily behind the ear is likely caused by an ear infection, while a headache localized around one eye is the novel presentation of a cluster headache. These are two very different conditions with wildly different treatments, so being able to correctly relay a sort of “pain radius” is the key to a proper diagnosis.
In a Band around the Head
If your pain feels like a rubber band squeezing your head like one of those watermelon videos that went viral in the 2010s, then there’s likely no need to panic. This is typically just how it feels to have a common tension headache. These are the most common types of headaches reported, and they tend to be mild to moderate in overall severity. However, despite their prevalence, they aren’t fully understood by science yet, particularly in terms of what causes them. We can currently tie them to four vague causes: chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and bad posture. However, it isn’t known how these can cause the “band around the head” effect of a tension headache.
It should also be noted that people tend to misdiagnose themselves with tension headaches quite often, possibly due to underestimating their symptoms or not taking location into account. When dealing with headaches, there is a lot you can guess at home, but if your headache impairs how you function, that isn’t normal, and you should see a specialist ASAP. It should also be noted that tension headaches can sometimes also involve pressure in the back of the head, as well as stiffness of the neck. This can occur as a result of arthritis or poor neck posture and requires a different approach.
If your headache is making you feel like your face is being squished—affecting your forehead, cheekbones, nose, jaw, or ears—then it may be a sinus headache. You will likely also be producing heaps of snot, or at least more than the 1.5 quarts of it that you produce per day already. Behind your eyes, cheeks, and nose are a series of connected chambers called sinuses. Excess mucus is produced when the sinuses become irritated, resulting in increased head pressure and a concurrent headache. Headaches produced in this manner are known as sinusitis headaches and can be triggered by colds and flu, allergies, and even infections of the sinuses themselves.
It should be noted that sinusitis headaches can often be conflated with migraines. Take the symptoms, severity, repetition, and duration of the headaches into account when determining which it is.
On One Side
Headaches come in two main flavors when discussing location: unilateral and bilateral. Unilateral means that the headache is only felt on one side of your head, while bilateral means that it’s felt on both sides. Whether this is in equal measure or in the same areas on both sides is moot. If your headache is only occurring on one side of your head, it could mean a few things. If you were to mention suffering from unilateral headaches to a doctor, the most common assumption would be that you’re suffering from a migraine. Migraines are often incredibly severe to the point of complete dysfunction, and they often come with a list of other symptoms: nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, and a distinct “pulsing” sensation are all hallmarks of a migraine.
In rare cases, you may also be suffering from SUNCT—Short-lasting, Unilateral, Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing. Bursts of moderate to severe burning, piercing, or throbbing pain, generally on one side of the head and around the eye or temple, are a defining feature of the condition. The discomfort normally peaks within seconds of onset and then gradually fades. Watery eyes, red or bloodshot eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, sweaty forehead, swelling of the eyelids, and increased pressure within the eye on the affected side of the head are some of the other symptoms that can occur.
What a Brain Tumor Feels Like
So, the question everyone dreads is: do I have a brain tumor? While we now know that not all head pressure automatically needs brain surgery, it’s still a grave concern for many, especially those with family histories of cancer or other brain tumor-related ailments. Fortunately, tumors feel very distinct compared to everything else. In terms of pure sensation, they feel like a weighted pressure on the head and neck, making it difficult to keep the head upright and stable. The headaches are almost invariably severe and come with other fun side effects, such as memory problems, vision problems, and difficulty walking. There’s also a high chance that you will experience many of these symptoms on one side of the body, as the tumor will likely be localized in one hemisphere.
If your headache fits this description, and especially if you’ve also been experiencing changes in mood, personality, emotions, and behavior, seek medical intervention immediately. Brain tumors are one of the least likely outcomes of a bad headache, but it’s always better safe than sorry when the symptoms match up too well.
Treatment for Headaches
The treatment for your individual headache will vary depending on what the headache is, the severity of the headache in question, and the urgency of the condition. There are a few conventional methods that are well-known and often used, as well as alternative methods that aren’t spoken of quite as often. What works for one person may not work for another, so don’t give up if you’ve already tried one or two of these.
There are many pharmaceutical treatments for headaches of all flavors. If you have a tension headache, you may be urged to take muscle relaxants as well as OTC painkillers such as ibuprofen. Migraines can be treated with tricyclic antidepressants, and cluster headaches have a slew of medicines available, from injectables to nasal sprays.
There are also some conventional treatments that don’t involve medicine, such as physical therapy for tension headaches, oxygen therapy for cluster headaches, and massages and transcranial magnetic stimulation for migraines. On top of that, there are many things you can try at home, such as using hot and cold compresses, resting in a dark, quiet room, and reducing stress in your life.
In terms of alternative treatments for headaches, one that often gets overlooked is chiropractic. There is evidence to support that chiropractic care can be effective in treating certain types of headaches, namely those that involve pain in the back of the head and the neck. These can include tension headaches, some migraines, and cervicogenic headaches. These headaches can often be the result of poor posture, spinal injury, or misalignment. Your blood can circulate more easily as a result of better spinal alignment, reducing inflammation and irritation that causes headaches. Chiropractic adjustments also provide neck pain treatment and shoulder flexibility and range of motion, allowing you to exercise and participate in physical activities without discomfort. Chiropractic care can also reduce the need for opioids.
Each situation is unique, and a thorough evaluation is required before a correct course of chiropractic therapy can be decided. Significant improvement can generally be achieved by adjusting the upper cervical vertebrae in conjunction with adjusting the area where the cervical and thoracic spines connect. Here at AICA Lithia Springs, we offer chiropractic treatment for headaches of all types. Our wide range of professionals will examine every aspect of your individual case and come up with the best treatment plan to help you clear your head.