Definition and Types

Headache Definition

A headache is defined as pain or discomfort in the head (except for the area of the face below the eyes) or in the back of the neck where it connects to the skull.

Headaches are among the most common physical complaints in the general population.

Most headaches are caused by musculoskeletal problems and can be treated without the use of medical procedures or medications. Read more about causes of headaches and about our headache treatments.

What are the different types of headaches?

In medical literature, headaches are divided into two groups: primary headaches and secondary headaches.

  1. Primary headaches (90% of all headaches)
    These are headaches that have no underlying diseases or pathologies. The most common primary headaches are:

    • tension-type headache (also called muscular headache): This is the most common type of headache. About 80% of headaches experienced by the general population are tension headaches. Tension headaches are muscular (myofascial) in origin and are caused by a sustained contraction of the neck, shoulder, or face muscles.
      Read more about how tight muscles can cause headaches.
    • migraine headache:  This is the second most common type of headache, affecting about 13% of the general population. The mechanism of migraines is related to altered signal transmission between different parts of the brain, resulting in a combination of the dilation of blood vessels in the brain and the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around these blood vessels. There is no brain pathology or disease associated with migraines. People outside the medical community frequently use the word migraine to describe excruciating headaches of any origin. Migraines frequently coexist with tension-type headaches. Read more about the relationship between migraines and tension headaches and its significance in the clinical management of migraines.
    • cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic headaches: These headaches, just as migraine headaches, are neurological in nature.
    • post-traumatic headache: headaches which occur after a trauma to the head, blow to the head.
    • drug withdrawal headache, also called rebound headache
    • exertional headache
  2. Secondary headaches (10% of all headaches)
    Secondary headaches are caused by serious pathologic processes or diseases, such as aneurysms, inflammatory diseases, abnormalities of the spinal fluid, brain tumors, etc. Secondary headaches require medical management and cannot be treated conservatively.

Headaches can also be named according to their causes:

  • muscular headache All tension-type headaches (see above), most cervicogenic headaches (see below), and TMJ headaches are muscular headaches. Read more about how tight muscles can cause headaches.
  • cervicogenic headache: In a cervicogenic headache, pain perceived in the head and/or face originates from the neck structures (e.g., muscles, joints, discs, ligaments of the neck). Read more about how neck joints can cause headaches.
  • TMJ headache: In a TMJ headache, head pain is referred from one or more sources in or around the jaw (e.g., jaw joint, disc, face muscles) and is perceived in one or more regions of the head and/or face. Read more about how tight face muscles can cause headaches.
  • postural headache: Postural headaches are headaches that result from poor posture. Since poor posture leads to abnormal tightening of the neck-shoulder muscles and may also cause cervical joint dysfunctions, it is ultimately the tight muscles or involved joints of the neck that refer pain to the head and/or face. Most tension headaches and cervicogenic headaches belong to the category of postural headaches.
  • vascular headache: Vascular headaches are caused by dilation (or swelling) of the blood vessels in the head and scalp. Migraine headaches, cluster headaches, and toxic headaches are examples of vascular headaches.
  • hormonal headacheHormonal headaches are caused by hormonal fluctuations.

testimonialsI am a competitive wrestler and a very active person during the off-season. I started having a lot of pain in my jaw and head, to the point that I had to avoid physical workouts for fear of the pain getting worse. Specialized doctors offered treatments that gave little to no relief. I was so lucky that a year or so later I was referred to Teresa. Since I started treatment with Teresa, I have been able to maintain my vigorous workouts and wrestling sessions with very little or no headaches. I attribute my progress to Teresa’s help, and I feel fortunate that I found her. Teresa knows what she is doing: see her! Aside from the fact that she is good at what she does, she is also really personable.

– Male, 19

testimonialsI thank God for Teresa! By the time I met Teresa, I had extreme head pain. I had been to several physical therapists before seeing her. From our first appointment I knew I was in the right place. Teresa exuded knowledge and competence, while making me completely at ease. Her treatment could not have been more effective. I traveled far (1.5 hours each way) for my appointments, but it was truly worth it. Teresa is the best!

– Female, 56

testimonialsI saw my primary care doctor to complain about migraine-like headaches, jaw pain and cracking, and limited ability to open my mouth. My balance was off, and I was experiencing some dizziness. I was pretty miserable. This was especially debilitating for me since I work as an engineer, and I need to be clear-headed to concentrate and do well. My doctor referred me to Teresa for manual treatment. I was completely amazed that there was any kind of manual therapy for this at all, and even more amazed that it worked that well. Thanks to the work with Teresa my pain is now resolved. Teresa is very knowledgeable and well connected to the medical community. I could not recommend her more highly.

– Male, 55

testimonialsTeresa has really changed my life. I saw her because I was suffering from debilitating headaches. Teresa truly understood my pain, where it came from, and how it affected me and during her treatments she was finding areas on my face, neck, and shoulders that were triggering my headaches. I no longer suffer from headaches. I have my life back! Teresa truly excels in her field.

– Female, 42

testimonialsI began treatment with Teresa after a traumatic accident. She provided me with a thorough evaluation and a carefully executed treatment plan. Her very knowledgeable and professional care for my headaches and myofacial pain was coordinated with my other doctors. Teresa treats the entire person with great sensitivity and compassion. She gives you the most effective manual therapy and provides the highest level of commitment to your well-being. I owe my more comfortable lifestyle to Teresa and her wonderfully caring approach!

– Female, 41

testimonialsI was referred to Teresa by my doctor for treatment of a head and neck injury that resulted in migraine-like headaches. I could not work out because any exercise was causing severe migraines. I found Teresa’s treatments to be WAY more beneficial to me than any other treatments that I tried before. With Teresa’s treatments, my headaches resolved – I have not needed to come back and I am able to work out vigorously every day. Teresa is very knowledgeable in her field, and I would most definitely recommend her to others.

– Female, 31

testimonialsBefore starting work with Teresa, I suffered from headaches for many years. She clearly knows what she is doing and I’ve seen tremendous improvement during the time I’ve seen Teresa. And while there is still work to be done (I needed to stop the treatment because I moved out of the country for a year), I expect nothing but a positive outcome. I would most definitely recommend Teresa to anyone I know suffering from headaches. She’s a true professional!

– Male, 25

testimonialsTwo years ago I drove nearly two hours each way to see Teresa for treatment of severe headaches and migraines. It was difficult to fit the treatments into my schedule because I run a busy business, but I did not have a choice – I got to the point I was afraid I would not be able to work. I knew that stress played a big part in my headache and migraine symptoms, so once I learned that Teresa was also a hypnotherapist I decided to also engage in hypnotherapy with her. I was amazed that within two months of us working together I was feeling 75% better – my baseline headaches were practically resolved (I just felt a sensation of tightness in my head, but there was no pain) and migraine attacks decreased from 2-3 times a week to just 3 in a month. With continued treatment, my headaches completely resolved and my migraines became sporadic (I had just 2 migraine episodes in the last year).

I am very grateful to Teresa for her help because not only my headaches are gone, but thanks to hypnosis, I am now able to handle hectic job and stressful life in a way that does not harm my body.

– Female, 45

testimonialsMy 13 y.o. son developed headaches. I took him to every doctor, but nothing seemed to help until he started treatment with Teresa. Teresa is great with children – my son absolutely loved her and allowed her work on his neck muscles, which was making a huge difference in his symptoms right from the beginning. My son also did hypnosis to learn how to relax and stop clenching his teeth (I had never thought that children his age experienced life as stressful, but now I am learning that this is quite common now). As a result of Teresa’s treatment my son no longer complains of headaches and seems to be much happier and more relaxed then he was before. We are so grateful to Teresa for that!

– Male, 13

testimonialsMy entire family is grateful to Teresa for helping me resolve my headaches and return to my healthy and happy self. All my life I had issues with my TMJ, but I was able to function with occasional jaw pain until I started also getting headaches (that happened when I was 27 years old, just after I had my first child). I saw many doctors and tried many medications and finally my neurologist diagnosed me with tension headaches, but he said that he could not do anything for it, other than prescribing muscle relaxants and antidepressants. I was devastated. I did not know how I would live my life like that!

I decided to try acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, but my headaches were still there. Then a person from my church told me about Teresa. When I saw Teresa first time, she easily found tender spots in my neck and explained to me what trigger points were and how these points were causing my headaches. She also evaluated my jaw and found trigger points in the muscles inside my mouth. Some of these muscles were also sending pain to my head. Everything Teresa was describing sounded exactly what I had been experiencing. I couldn’t believe that I found somebody who not only understood me, but also was able to treat me.
Our manual therapy treatments were very effective and within 4 months I was virtually free of pain. In addition to seeing Teresa, at her recommendation, I also started working with a dentist who made a day and night splint for me. About two months into my treatment I also did hypnosis, which I think helped me progress faster with manual therapy because it helped me relax all my muscles and sleep better.

I am feeling the way I used to feel before having my first child. My headaches are just a memory and if at any time I feel a pressure in my head (which in the past was always leading to a headache), I just take a few minutes and listen the recordings of my hypnosis sessions with Teresa. Once I relax (and I always relax when doing self-hypnosis), the pressure sensation goes away. I remember that when I started my treatment with Teresa I was hopeful, but I did not believe that I would ever be free of pain (I was hoping to just feel better). And now – I no longer have headaches, I feel happy and enjoy my life.

– Female, 33

testimonialsI came to Teresa for treatment of severe headaches. I had headaches in high school, but by the time I finished my first year in college my headaches became unbearable. Prior to seeing Teresa I tired different forms of headache treatments, but none of them helped me (even medications had a limited effect). I couldn’t believe that after only a few manual therapy treatments I was starting feeling better. My entire treatment took about 5 months (I was initially coming twice a week, then once week, then every other week), but after that time I was feeling great! I have not seen Teresa for over a year now and I am still feeling good.

– Female, 21

testimonialsI was suffering from severe headaches and neck pain when I met Teresa. Her warm, caring bedside manner and her expertise in pain management / treatment were invaluable. I truly believe that my appointments with her were the reason I recovered as well as I did. I recommend her to anyone seeking relief from headaches and neck pain.

– Male, 48

testimonialsTeresa at New Body – New Mind helped me resolve chronic headaches and TMJ pain. Teresa is professional and results-driven, but at the same time she is compassionate and caring. She is passionate about her work and her intellectual curiosity, problem-solving skills, and ability to think outside the box are unparalleled. In addition to providing a relief from headaches and TMJ pain, Teresa helped me understand my condition and taught me what to do in my daily life to remain pain-free. I highly recommend her to anyone in need of treatment of any physical pain.

Male, 45

testimonialsTeresa Sienkiewicz is a tremendously knowledgeable manual therapist, who is totally committed to her patients. To say that she changed my life is an understatement. Prior to working with Teresa I had suffered from severe headaches for over 30 years, during which time I had seen a whole range of doctors and health care professionals, but none of the treatments I tried were successful, until I met Teresa. Teresa was the first and the only person who offered a treatment that worked. I have now lived headache-free for almost two years! I would highly recommend treatment with Teresa to anyone suffering from headaches.

Female, 57