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The Prevalence of Headaches: Types and Causes

Posted on 10th November 2016 by

We often get patients coming into the clinic complaining of headaches. This blog series will look at the prevalence of headaches – what causes them, how they are classified and then will look at some of the more common types of headaches in more detail and how Physiotherapy can help with managing and resolving these.

Most of us have experienced a headache previously – the World Health Organisation has reported that:

  • 75% of adults aged 18-65 have experienced a headache in the last year
  • 47% of adults have experienced an episode of headache disorder – recurrent or prolonged headaches – in the last year
  • Around 30% of adults reported suffering from a migraine in the last year
  • Around 4% of adults report having a headache for over 15 days each month, known as Chronic Daily Headaches

These figures show us that headache disorder is a worldwide issue and they are ranked as the 3rd highest cause of ‘years lost due to disability’. Migraine on its own is the 6th highest cause. Headaches tends to affect women more than men – for example, for every one male reporting Chronic Daily Headaches, three women will be affected.

Headaches can be triggered by a number of factors:

  • Mechanical issues – poor posture, neck position, working habits
  • Hormones – likely why more women report headaches than men
  • Stress levels
  • Medication induced – known as ‘medication overuse’
  • Teeth grinding
  • External factors – smell, bright lights, pressure and humidity

Headaches can also be classified into either primary or secondary.

  • Primary headaches are benign, often recurrent but are not caused by an underlying disease or structural problem. Tension type headaches are the most common type of primary headaches.
  • Secondary headaches are a result of an underlying disease or structural issue, such as infection, head injury, vascular problems or spinal issue. Cervicogenic (neck based) headaches are the most common type of secondary headaches.

Both tension type and cervicogenic headaches are types of mechanical headaches and can be helped greatly with Physiotherapy intervention.

If you suffer with headaches and would like help in tackling them, give us a call on 023 8025 3317 and find out if we can help.


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