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Everyone understands the pain and pressure that comes with a headache. The pain can be dull or sharp, causing anything from mild inconvenience to debilitating pressure. When headaches are severe and chronic, they can significantly impact your life.

There are as many as 150 different types of headaches. Tension or stress headaches are the most common, followed by migraines. Other types include occipital neuralgia, post-traumatic headache, TMJ headaches, and cervicogenic.

You don’t have to live with the pain of headaches or migraines. At The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction, we have been pioneers in breakthrough treatments using Botox® and nerve decompression surgery, providing patients with the relief they seek


Types of Headaches

Headaches and migraines affect the daily lives of millions of people all over the world. To understand the difference between headaches and migraines and the ways they can manifest, it’s important to understand the main types of headaches and their causes.

Cervicogenic Headaches
Cervicogenic headaches originate from the neck, often radiating to the temporal or frontal regions of the head. The symptoms are often localized to one side of the head, but may be bilateral, and often the pain worsens over time. They are mainly caused by injury to the cervical spine and compression of the occipital nerves (the peripheral nerves that run up the back of the head and provide sensation to this area).

Migraines are defined as a recurrent headache disorder that manifests in attacks lasting for 4 to 72 hours. They are one of the oldest infirmities known to humankind. Though their cause is largely unknown, they may be triggered by specific foods or weather changes in certain individuals. Migraines cause moderate to severe throbbing or pulsing pain, often on one side of the head.

Occipital Neuralgia
In occipital neuralgia, the occipital nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp are injured or inflamed, which causes painful headache symptoms, as well as tenderness or diminished sensation around the area of the nerve. Many of our occipital neuralgia patients report the onset of the condition following a traumatic event, such as a car accident or fall.

Post-Traumatic Headaches
Headaches occurring after a history of head and/or neck trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, are classified as post-traumatic headaches. Post-traumatic headaches are considered secondary headaches since they occur as a result of an injury, unlike most migraines, which typically occur without a preceding event.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Headaches
A primary consequence of TMJ dysfunction is jaw pain and headache involving the upper and middle cheek, as well as the side of the head. The source of the pain can be from hyperactivity of the jaw muscles or abnormal contact between bony surfaces (such as arthritis of the bones located within the joint).

This infographic provides details on the various types of headaches.

Risk Factors for Headaches & Migraines

It can be difficult to pinpoint a cause for migraines. Genetics and environmental factors may be involved. Some people are more prone to migraines than others. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Family history. Having family members with migraines means you are more likely to experience them.
  • Age. Migraines can begin at any age, though the first often occurs during adolescence. After peaking in your 30s, your migraines may gradually become less severe and frequent as you age.
  • Sex. Women are three times more likely than men to have migraines.
  • Hormonal changes. Many women experience headaches or migraines just before or shortly after onset of menstruation. Migraines generally improve after menopause.

Diagnosing Headaches & Migraines

Finding out which type of headache or migraine is a crucial first step in finding out which treatment options to pursue. Neurologists and other headache specialists sometimes have difficulty diagnosing a headache condition as purely occipital neuralgia or migraine, and there may be some overlap in the classification.

There are several diagnostic tools we can use to help us uncover the root cause of your headaches and migraines. These may include:

  • MRI of the cervical spine to assess for nerve compression
  • CT scans
  • Blood tests and urinalysis

Treatment Options for Headaches & Migraines

Our treatment options for headaches and migraines focus on alleviating your pain so you can feel good again. We are proud to be on the cutting edge of headache treatments for patients. Our patients have found significant relief through two of our advanced treatments, Botox® injections and nerve decompression surgery.


  • FDA-approved treatment for chronic migraines. Used also for persistent PTH and cervicogenic headache
  • Works by blocking receptors that control muscle contraction, thus paralyzing the muscles
  • Theorized to relieve nerve irritation or compression caused by muscle contractions in areas of certain migraine “triggers”
  • Injections to head and neck approximately every 3 months
  • Studies have shown duration reduction of 7 to 9 days for monthly migraines
  • Positive results with Botox® treatments indicate potentially good candidates for surgery.

Nerve Decompression Surgery

  • Minimally invasive surgical decompression of the peripheral sensory nerves in the area of the skull
  • May result in reduction or elimination of headache or tenderness
  • Considered when all other modalities have failed or aren’t effective enough
  • Surgery potentially addresses all of the aforementioned headache types

Which type of procedure you undergo to eliminate your symptoms will depend on a wide range of factors, the most important being which headache disorder you have. Our entire team is here to guide you toward the best decision for you.

Related Articles

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