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Posted on 10-17-2017

Tension Headaches vs. Migraines: What's the Difference?

Headaches are one of the most common medical problems in the U.S., affecting men and women as well as teens and children. While it’s easy to think all headaches are the same, they can vary significantly in their causes and even in their symptoms. For instance, two of the most common types of headaches - migraines and tension headaches - have different causes and require a different approach to treatment, and understanding these differences is the key to long-term relief.

Woman in bed from a bad headache.

Tension Headache Causes

Tension headache causes can vary, but generally, these headaches are caused by acute or chronic stress (or both). Tension causes the muscles around your neck and shoulders to tighten, resulting in tender areas called trigger points as well as irritation and inflammation. These inflamed areas and stiff, tight muscles can press on nerves, resulting in nerve compression that can exacerbate symptoms or even cause related symptoms like neck or back pain, tingling, and burning sensations. What's more, as tight muscles tug and pull on your spine, they can because the vertebrae to move out of alignment, resulting in additional nerve compression as the nerves exit your spine. If you have poor posture, you're also more likely to have tension headaches as a result of additional pressure and stress on your spine. Tension headaches typically cause pain and aching on both sides of the head, often behind the eyes, and they can anywhere from an hour to more than a day.

Migraine Causes

Migraine headaches are most often caused by chemical changes that trigger nerve overstimulation and blood vessel dilation and constriction. Migraines often occur on just one side of the head, and they can be accompanied by symptoms like nausea, hypersensitivity to lights and sounds, and visual disturbances like tunnel vision, usually in one eye. Migraines can last for hours or days. Like tension headaches, migraines can also occur in response to acute stress.

Headaches and Chiropractic Care

Since tension headaches and migraines are both caused by nerve-related issues including nerve compression and irritation, chiropractic care can be an ideal solution for relieving their symptoms and even preventing future headaches. In fact, studies have shown that chiropractic manipulation - gently coaxing the spine into its normal alignment to relieve nerve compression, strain, and painful irritation - is extremely effective in providing fast relief for symptoms, and it can help prevent headaches from occurring in the future. In addition to chiropractic manipulation, therapeutic massage and lifestyle guidance are also important for providing relief to many patients. Your treatment plan will be based on a thorough hands-on exam to understand your specific symptoms and needs. 

For Headaches and Chiropractic Treatment, Visit Our Top-Rated Integrated Practice in Oxford, AL

As a leading chiropractic and physical therapy clinic in Oxford, AL, the American Back Institute offers complete care for headaches, including diagnosis and treatment options to help you relieve your symptoms quickly. To learn more about headaches and chiropractic treatment, call the American Back Institute at 256-202-6123 and schedule an exam and consultation today.

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