(Brain Pain of the Highest Magnitude)

Headaches have become endemic in our culture. Almost every issue of any women's magazine or health publication will have at least one article devoted to headaches. The purpose of this article is to help the reader understand more about the different types of headaches and explain one reason why so many people fall victim to an incorrect diagnosis, and wind up taking drugs, sometimes dangerous drugs, unnecessarily. Also learn how many people who had suffered with disabling headaches have been treated non-surgically and without drugs to attain a quality of life they had previously thought impossible.

Sinus Headaches

Your sinuses are located in your forehead, in the cheekbones on each side, and behind the bridge of your nose. When a sinus becomes inflamed, usually as the result of an allergic reaction, tumor, or infection, the inflammation will cause a localized pain, or headache in that area.

Sinuses are filled with air, and their secretions must be able to drain freely into the nose. If your headache is truly caused by sinus blockage, such as infection, you will probably have a fever. An x-ray will confirm a sinus blockage. Your physician's treatment may include antibiotics for the infection, as well as antihistamines or decongestants. If you do not have a true sinus headache, taking decongestants may make your headache worse.

Cluster Headaches

These headaches are called cluster headaches because the attacks come in-groups. The pain arrives with little or no warning. It has been described as the most severe and intense of any headache type. It usually lasts from 30 to 45 minutes, although it might persist for several hours before is disappears. Unfortunately, it can reoccur later in the same day. Most sufferers experience one to four headaches each day during a cluster period. Cluster headaches frequently occur during the morning or late at night. The cluster cycle can last weeks or months and then can disappear for months or years. Clusters often occur during spring or autumn and, thus, are often incorrectly associated with allergies.

Less than 1% of the population are victims of cluster headache. They are about the only headache type that favors men (about 5 to 1) over women, and usually occur between the ages of 20 and 45. Cluster headaches were once considered a type of migraine, because it is vascular in nature.

Cluster headaches are usually unilateral and rarely switch sides from one attack to another. You might feel the pain begin around one eye, like "jabbing a stick in your eye" or "pulling it out by its roots." It may be accompanied by a tearing or bloodshot eye and a runny nose on the affected side. The pain can radiate from the eye to the forehead, temple and cheek on the same side. The pain is piercing, burning, throbbing, or pulsating, and so excruciating that most victims cannot sit still. They feel compelled to rock in a chair, pace back and forth, or even bang their heads against something.

Tension Headaches

Tension-type headaches may be the result of stress or fatigue, but more than likely; they can be attributed to physical problems, psychological issues, or depression. Women are affected significantly more than men, usually beginning between the ages of 20 to 40. They can be either chronic or episodic in nature. They are characterized by a continuous, but not throbbing, pain in the forehead, temples, and/or the back of the head or neck. The muscles between the head and neck sometimes contract for hours or even days. It can feel like a tightening around your head and/or neck with only certain positions seeming to provide some relief.

Migraine Headaches

Migraines deserve the attention they receive; one headache can put your life "on hold" for a few hours or several days. The term migraine is originally derived from the Greek word "hemicrania," which means "half the head." For 70% of the sufferers, the headache does occur on one side of the head. Migraine is considered a vascular headache because it is associated with changes in the size of the arteries in and outside of the brain. The blood vessels are thought to become inflamed and swollen, and it is believed that migraine pain is caused by this inflammation, as well as by the pressure on the swollen walls of the blood vessels.

There are several types of migraines, and every person will experience theirs in a different way. However, there are some basic features. They usually begin as a dull ache, and then progress into a constant, throbbing and pulsating pain at the temples, as well as the front or back of one side of the head. The pain is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise. Most migraine sufferers experience two to four headaches per month, but some people get one every few days, while others may only have one or two a year. Most migraine headaches last at least four hours, although very severe ones can last up to a week. They may begin at any time of the day or night, but a migraine will rarely awaken a person from sleep.

Most migraine sufferers experience visual problems during the headache. Some people have migraines, which begin with an "aura," which begins from five to thirty minutes before the actual onset of the headache. Auras are a manifestation of neurological symptoms. These neurological disruptions may cause you to see wavy or jagged lines, dots, or flashing lights. You may even experience tunnel vision or blind spots in one or both eyes. The aura can include vision or hearing hallucinations. Disruptions in smell (such as strange odors), taste, or touch may also occur. It can become even more frightening if it involves feelings of numbness, a "pins-and-needles" sensation, or even difficulty in recalling or speaking the correct word. These neurological events may last up to an hour and will fade as the headache begins. The pain grows more intense with time.

TMJ Dysfunction (TMD) Headaches

Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from TMJ headaches, and they are probably the least understood and most miss-diagnosed of all health problems. There are two primary reasons why TMJ headaches are so commonly undiagnosed or miss-diagnosed. The first reason is that the symptoms can be almost exactly the same as either the sinus headache, the tension headache, and the migraine headache, and occasionally like the cluster headache. In other words, it can mimic any of the other four major causes of headache. TMJ headaches also affect women (8 to1) more than men and they usually begin between the ages of 20 to 50, but they can begin either earlier or later. The second reason TMJ headaches are so commonly undiagnosed or miss-diagnosed is that physicians are almost totally untrained regarding diagnosis and treatment of TMJ dysfunction, because it is felt that TMJ falls under the domain of the dentist. Unfortunately, most dentists are also poorly trained regarding the problem. Although some dentists recognize TMJ problems, they are unable to accurately identify the source of the problem. Their best effort to manage the problem is to use a therapy that is directed solely toward the symptoms, and does absolutely nothing to resolve the underlying cause of the problem. Examples of such attempts include splint therapy; occlusal equilibration, night guards, and drugs.

The symptoms of TMJ dysfunction are unbelievably diverse, both in nature and in severity. The most common symptoms are migraine-like headaches, which seem to come from behind the eyes or the side of the head. Also, there are the headaches or neckaches, which occur at the back of the head right where the neck attaches to the skull. People usually describe these neckaches as "tension headaches", as they are often associated with stress. The pain often radiates down into one or both shoulders.

Slightly less frequent, but occasionally more severe symptoms include vertigo (dizziness), ringing in the ears, lancing pain in one or both ears, hearing difficulties, stuffiness in one or both ears, light sensitivity in the eyes, ulcer-like pains in the stomach, low back pain, and poor posture.

More obvious, but less severe TMJ symptoms include clicking, popping, and/or grinding (crepitus) in the jaw joint; tenderness or pain in the jaw joint; sore or painful muscles in the head, face, or neck; difficulty in chewing; fatigue of the jaw muscles after prolonged chewing or talking; limitations of the range of motion of the lower jaw; locking of the jaw in either the open or closed position; clenching or grinding the teeth; sensitivity of the teeth; and deviation of the jaw when opening or closing the mouth.

There is rarely a day goes by in our office that we don't see a person who has suffered from excruciatingly painful headaches which utterly destroyed the quality of their lives. Through a very unique method of diagnosis and non-surgical treatment, we have been able to restore health, comfort, and optimal functionality to those who had TMJ dysfunction. Included in this group are many who had been previously treated, sometimes for years, for other types of headaches as well as TMJ headaches.