graphic van vrouw met hoofdpijn
Woman working on laptop clenching head in agony with headache

One of the many complaints that I often hear about are headaches. The WHO says that 50% of the population worldwide has had experience with this in the past year. Of these, 30% have experienced migraines. This clearly indicates that most people have experienced how annoying a headache can be. But what exactly is it? And what are the different types of headaches you may experience?

Do you find yourself relating to the woman in the photo more often than not? Make sure to keep reading to know how osteopathy can help you.

What is a headache?

In general, headache symptoms can range from a mild, pressing pain in the head to a throbbing or cutting pain. In some cases it is more annoying, in others unbearable. The location may also differ. Sometimes it is more in the front of the head, but it can also occur in the back of the head or behind an eye.

Because there are so many different types and shapes, there are a number of categories to distinguish specific types of headaches from others.

What types of headaches are there?

Tension headache

Tension headache is a collective term for all kinds of headaches. It is also known as nonspecific headache. This is often described as a pinching or pressing feeling in the head.

Often the cause is unknown. Even though the name suggests that it is due to tension or stress, this does not always have to be the case. This type can also have triggers that can be difficult to identify. Some of these triggers could include coffee, chocolate, wine/alcohol, etc.

This is one of the most common types of headaches and typically most people can go about their daily activities without the headache affecting them negatively.

Cervicogenic headache

Cervicogenic headaches usually arise from the neck. If you have neck complaints, there is a chance that this headache will develop. It can also develop after a fall or blow to the head or neck or a prolonged incorrect posture such as behind a poorly set up desk. In general, this type of headache can be aggravated by tension or work pressure. Often people experience the feeling as if it creeps up from the neck over the head and stays there like a band.

One of the things you can do to reduce the headache is to lower the stress or pressure you experience and ensure that the neck remains loose by, for example, doing exercises, getting a massage or going to a physiotherapist or osteopath.

Graphic van vrouw met hoofdpijn

Cluster headache

Cluster headaches are often a lot more severe and are often experienced as a stabbing pain behind 1 eye. Usually that eye is also red, swollen and tearing. Some people also experience a runny nose with it. In general, cluster headaches come on as an attack that lasts an average of 15 minutes, but can last as long as 3 hours. It varies how often these attacks occur.

Where people with migraine should lie quietly in bed, someone with cluster headaches wants to move as much as possible and therefore often starts with pacing. In severe cases, they may also clench their fists and bang their heads against a wall. 

In general, cluster headaches are rare and uncommon.

Man working on computer while holding head in agony of headache


Migraine is a throbbing, stabbing headache that comes on in attacks. Often these attacks last from about 3 hours to 3 days. Migraines are usually felt on one side of the head and are made worse with physical exertion. Sometimes there is also nausea, vomiting, seeing auras and/or hypersensitivity to light and sound.

In most cases, the pain is so severe that they have to lie on the bed in a low-stimulus room.

Also within the migraine category there are many different subcategories, each with their own characteristics, ways to prevent it and triggers that cause it. It is still not entirely clear where migraines come from and how we can stop them. However, a large proportion of people with migraine seem to have a dysregulation in the brain stem that causes the migraine.

Drug Related Headaches

Drug-related headaches are caused by overuse of drugs, especially painkillers. This is often after prolonged use, after which the body gets used to the drugs and triggers the headache when you do not take the painkiller.

What can and cannot osteopathy do for headaches?

Osteopathy cannot help with all types of headaches. i.e. cluster headaches and some types of migraines cannot change osteopathy. What osteopathy can do is ensure that the muscles and joints of the upper back, neck and head work optimally, so that with cervicogenic headaches, tension headaches and types of migraine, the mechanics of the body work so optimally that the headache is not triggered or less quickly. is becoming. It also contributes to the general relaxation of the body so that headaches develop less quickly. In addition, osteopathy can investigate whether other factors play a role in your specific headache. In some cases there is a compensation pattern which is the trigger, in other cases it depends on the way the desk is set up or the way you perform a certain action. The osteopath will look for a possible cause together with you.

What can you do at home for headaches?

  • Keep a headache diary in which you write down what you did and ate that day and whether you had a headache, if so how bad was this headache on a scale of 1-10 and did you take any painkiller?
  • Learn your triggers from this, what causes your headaches?
  • Drink enough water
  • Take your rest where necessary

Do you have questions about headaches and whether osteopathy can help you? Book an appointment now in Utrecht of send me a message!