Practitioners near you who treat headaches

Headaches are associated with an uncomfortable sensation in any part of the head.

Sensations may be heavy, sharp or throbbing and the discomfort can range from mild to extreme pain. It’s possible for other symptoms to occur at the same time as a headache, such as nausea or vomiting.

Primary headaches are when the headache itself is the main concern, and are not a symptom of another health condition. The pain is caused by inflammation in and around the head and neck, often relating to dysfunction in the nerves, muscles or blood vessels. Primary headaches are usually not dangerous, but can range from uncomfortable to disabling.

Secondary headaches occur when other health conditions trigger pain in or around the head or neck area. These headaches often begin suddenly and are excruciatingly painful. They’re more rare than primary headaches and are a warning sign that a serious underlying condition needs attention, e.g. aneurysm, brain tumour, neck injury, brain injury, meningitis.

Headache Types

The 4 main headache types are:

Migraine Headache

Extremely common and usually only occur on one side of the head. They can last from 1 to 3 days and result in throbbing pain, nausea, vomiting, and light and/or sound sensitivity. Classic Migraines are preceded by a warning sign called an aura. Common Migraines do not have an aura.

Tension Headache

The second most common type of headache, after a migraine. They usually cause a tight band of pressure around the temples, forehead and/or back of the head. They can persist for hours through to days, and may occur at the same time as a migraine headache. Physical therapy and relaxation techniques often lessen the discomfort of tension headaches.

Cluster Headache

An immensely painful, one-sided headache that manifests with a stuffy nose in one nostril, watery eyes, an enlarged pupil, and/or a droopy eyelid. They usually last between 20 minutes and 2 hours. Cluster headaches can occur multiple times a day for a few weeks, and then subside for months.

Hypnic Headache

A rare headache type that only occurs at night, usually at the same time each evening. It affects both sides of the head and exclusively manifests in people between 40 and 80 years old. Hypnic headaches usually last for 15 to 60 minutes. 

Understanding what causes headaches can be complicated, especially as the  International Headache Society (IHS) has identified more than 200 headache types.

Many people incorrectly think that headaches are caused by the brain and skull. Science has shown this is unlikely as these regions don’t contain nerve endings for pain receptors. However, areas that can respond to pain, and potentially contribute to headaches, include the teeth, sinuses, and blood vessels, tissues, muscles and major nerves in the head and neck.

Finding a headache remedy that works for you, when there are so many headache types and causes, can be difficult. Fortunately, proper investigations can help you connect with the right headache treatment.

The Australian and New Zealand Headache Society works with the IHS to improve the lives of headache sufferers. They’re both committed to researching what causes headaches, so that you can find the headache treatment that improves your quality of life.

Celebrities with Headaches

Serena Williams, tennis champion, suffered from migraine headaches for years. After a migraine stopped her from competing in a tournament final, Serena decided to investigate her pain. Tests revealed that her migraines were connected to her menstrual cycle. This knowledge allowed Serena to seek treatment for menstrual migraine headaches and continue on the tennis circuit.

Actor Daniel Radcliffe has personal experience with cluster headaches. Investigations led him to a solution in the form of blood pressure medication, even though he’s only 25 years old. Since taking pills, Daniel rarely has an attack and is able to continue with his normal routines.

Signs and Symptoms

Every headache type has its own signs, symptoms and frequency of onset. Typical experiences include:

  • Sensations in the head that slowly increases over a few minutes or hours
  • Discomfort on both sides of the head, though it can be one-sided
  • Pressure around the temples, forehead and/or back of the head
  • Pain is usually mild or moderate.

More intense headaches can be associated with severe pain, nausea, vomiting, light/sound sensitivity, slurred speech, loss of balance and mental confusion.

Treatments for Headaches

Each headache type has its own headache treatment protocols, which may include:

  • Avoiding Triggers – The best headache treatment for all types of headaches involves identifying, and then avoiding, the cause. For example, if chocolate triggers your migraines, ditch the chocolate bar and swap it for carob. Or, if stress precedes your tension headache, be mindful of your stress levels and situations that make you feel overwhelmed.
  • Abortive Medications – These are prescribed by a doctor to help stop headaches, especially migraines, that have already begun. They target receptors in the nerves and blood vessels and are particularly useful for people who experience nausea or vomiting with their headaches.
  • Rescue Medications – Over-the-counter medications that help to reduce pain and inflammation, e.g. ibuprofen.
  • Preventative Medications – In some instances, doctors can prescribe daily medications that help reduce the likelihood of headaches occurring.
  • Alternative Therapies – Allied health professionals can tailor a headache remedy specific for your needs. Consult with Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths or Naturopaths.

Causes of Headaches

What causes a headache for one person, won’t necessarily cause a headache in another. Triggers are highly individualised, with the most common contributing factors being:

  • Stress: As stress increases, your muscles tighten and inflammatory hormones release into your bloodstream. Having a tense body that’s filled with inflammation makes you more prone to headaches. This is especially true if your stress is coupled with a lack of sleep.
  • Dehydration: When you’re dehydrated your brain shrinks. It retracts from your skull, and is in closer contact with nerve endings that perceive pain. This is part of the reason that drinking too much alcohol can cause a headache.
  • Food Sensitivity: Chemicals in some foods can cause headaches in sensitive people, e.g. chocolate, aged cheese, red wine, peanuts, alcohol, caffeine.
  • Hormones: Hormonal changes can trigger headaches. This is the most common in women who experience headaches around their period.
  • Medications: Some pharmaceuticals cause headaches as a side effect. 
  • Head or Neck Injury: Any injury that causes misalignment of the skull bones, neck or spine can contribute to headaches.
  • Eye Problems: Any situation that requires you to strain your eyes can result in a headache, e.g. focusing on one thing for a long period, being long or short-sighted and not using correct glasses.

What Works For Headaches – Natural Options

Here are some natural, drug-free headache remedies:

Hydration is key to a healthy brain that’s less prone to headaches. This is because a hydrated brain is plump and less at risk of touching nerve endings in the surrounding areas. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh water, coconut water, herbal teas, and by eating fresh fruit daily.

Physical Therapy can be immensely useful for headaches. Chiropractors can help with neck and spine misalignments. Osteopaths help to optimise blood flow and reduce irritation of nerves in the head and neck (ideal if the ‘crack’ of chiropractic treatment doesn’t suit you). Myotherapists assist headaches that start with tightness in the shoulders and base of the skull, and then radiate into the forehead, eye or temples. Massage Therapists can decrease muscle tension, improve blood flow and reduce stress levels.

Acupuncture has been studied for its effectiveness as a headache treatment. Results show it can help reduce pain, and decrease headache frequency and severity.

Avoid food sensitivities that trigger your headaches. Using a food diary for 2 weeks can help you track patterns between your food choices and headaches. If you have trouble identifying your triggers it’s best to connect with a Naturopath for help. They can also investigate whether poor gut health is contributing to your headaches.

Supplements are a popular headache remedy as they can help with pain management and nerve health. Popular supplements for headaches and migraines include Vitamin B-Complex, Magnesium, Butterbur, Feverfew and White Willow Bark.

Self Care isn’t a luxurious headache treatment. It’s an essential part of living a healthy life that helps you de-stress and connect with things that make you smile. Regular self-care can help decrease headache frequency, improve sleep, lift mood, and contribute to a higher quality of life.

Find A Professional

The following health experts can help treat headaches:

  • Chiropractors
  • Osteopaths
  • Massage Therapists
  • Myotherapists
  • Naturopaths
  • Acupuncturists
  • Reflexologists
  • Reiki Masters

Supporting Someone With Headaches

Here’s how to help someone with headaches:

  1. Reduce the noise. People often become more sensitive to noise when they have a headache. One of the most considerate things you can do to help a friend with a headache is to reduce your noise level. Try not to use loud machinery, turn down the television/music, and even speak at a quieter level when communicating with them.
  2. Offer water. Dehydration contributes to headache pain, even if it’s not the cause of the headache itself. Encourage your friend to drink plenty of water daily, and hand them a glass of water if they feel headache symptoms beginning.
  3. Encourage expert help. If your friend suffers with frequent or severe headaches, and they haven’t seen a health professional, please encourage them to do so. Understanding what triggers the pain makes it much easier to find a solution for their headache.


What are 5 causes of headaches?

  1. High levels of stress
  2. Neck/spine injuries
  3. Lack of sleep
  4. Dehydration
  5. Hormone imbalances


Which foods can trigger headaches?

  • Chocolate
  • Aged cheese, e.g. blue cheese, brie, cheddar, feta, mozzarella, parmesan, swiss
  • Peanuts
  • Deli meats, e.g. ham, bacon, salami
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol


How do I know if my headache is serious?

Your headache is serious if it begins suddenly or brings excruciating pain that’s almost intolerable. You may also experience vomiting, slurred speech, vision changes, loss of balance or confusion. These types of headaches are dangerous. You need to seek medical assistance for this as soon as possible.

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