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What Is The Most Common Type Of Headache In Australia?

Australians frequently suffer with headaches, with one study finding that 87% of subjects had experienced headache in the last year, [1] with around 15 per cent of Australians taking pain-relieving medication for headache at any given time. According to the Vic Government health site, 4.9 million people in Australia suffer from migraine every year [2]

The total economic cost of migraine in Australia is $35.7 billion.

This consists of:

o $14.3 billion of health system costs;

o $16.3 billion of productivity costs; and

o $5.1 billion of other costs. [2]

Many of us are familiar with some form of the throbbing, uncomfortable, and distracting pain of a headache. Deena Kuruvilla MD from Healthline explains that there are many different types of headaches, including:

  • tension headache

  • cluster headache

  • migraine headache

  • hemicrania continua

  • ice pick headache

  • thunderclap headache

  • allergy or sinus headache

  • hormone headache (also known as menstrual migraine)

  • caffeine headache

  • exertion headache

  • hypertension headache

  • rebound headache

  • post-traumatic headache [3-34]

And, according to Novant Health Neurology & Headache Clinic in North Carolina, a new category “COVID Headache” has emerged which presents mostly as a whole-head, severe-pressure pain along with COVID symptoms.

Having a headache is a very common symptom of COVID-19 for all age groups.

On average, around seven in ten adults who are ill with COVID-19 will have a headache. It’s slightly less common in children, affecting around six in ten children.

Some sources suggests around 15% of people who were ill with COVID-19 reported a headache as their only symptom.

This video outlines several common headache types in more detail:

The Headache Australia organisation mentions that Tension-type headache (TTH) is the most prevalent forms of headache in the country. The symptoms are typically felt on both sides of the head, rather than just occurring on one side, and can cause a sensation of pressure or constriction. These TTH headaches are usually of a mild to moderate severity and are not typically aggravated by low-intensity exercise such as walking.

While tension headaches do not classically cause nausea or vomiting, in some cases they may cause some sensitivity to light or sound, and usually last anywhere from 30 minutes up to seven days. Stress, time spent working at a desk, and neck issues are thought to play a role.

Some studies show that physical therapy modalities, including Chiropractic and Physiotherapy, can be helpful for various forms of headaches. [35-41]

Typically these modalities will utilise spinal mobilisation, exercises, stretches, soft tissue techniques such as massage, orthopaedic devices to help improve posture, and some form of ergonomic advise to assist setting up home and workplace areas.

It’s important to take headaches seriously. Consider consulting a Chiropractor if you experience frequent headaches, if you need to regularly take a pain reliever for your headaches, if your headache pattern changes, or if your symptoms are getting worse. Seek prompt medical attention if your headache follows a head injury, or is accompanied by fever or difficulty speaking.


[1]Prevalence of headache and migraine in an Australian city- J. Heywood, T. Colgan, and C. Coffey- Journal of Clinical Neuroscience (1998) 5(4), 485.

[2]Migraine in Australia Whitepaper, Deloitte Access Economics Report, 2018

[3]Bahra A. (2020). Other primary headaches—thunderclap-, cough-, exertional-, and sexual headache.

[4]Baraness L, et al. (2021). Acute headache.

[5]Buddeberg BS, et al. (2019). Post-dural puncture headache.

[6]Chua AL, et al. (2016). Ice pick headache.

[7]Gooriah R, et al. (2015). Evidence-based treatments for cluster

[8]Hameed S, et al. (2021). Hemicrania continua.

[9]Headache disorders. (2016).

[10] Headache. (n.d.).,p00784/

[11]Headaches connected to allergies and sinus problems. (2020)

[12]Hemicrania continua information page. (2019).

[13]Hemicrania continua. (2016)

[14]Hien H, et al. (2019). Migraine headache prophylaxis.

[15]Ice pick headaches. (2017).

[16]Is it migraine or sinus headache? (2021)

[17] Kandel SA, et al. (2021). Cluster headache.

Kim DY, et al. (2017).

[18]Clinical patterns of primary stabbing headache: A single clinic-based prospective study.

[19]Lee M, et al. (2016). Field testing primary stabbing headache criteria according to the 3rd beta edition of International Classification of Headache Disorders: A clinic-based study.

[20]Medication overuse headache. (2016).

[21]Migraine information page. (2019).

[22]Migraine through a woman's life. (2019).

[23]Murphy C, et al. (2021). Chronic

[24] Pavlović JM, et al. (2015). Burden of migraine related to menses: results from the AMPP

[25 ]Plewa MC, et al. (2021). Postdural puncture headache.

[26]Post-traumatic headache. (2016)

[27]Sekhon S, et al. (2021). Thunderclap headache.

[28]Sinus headaches. (2018).

[29]Tension-type headache. (2016).

[30]Thunderclap headaches. (2016)

[31]Tubben RE, et al. (2021). Epidural blood patch.

[32]Understanding cluster headache. (2019).

[33]Wei DY, et al. (2019). Managing cluster

[34]What are the symptoms of high blood pressure(2017).

[35] Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, Marcoux H, Potter B, Ruegg R, Shaw L, Watkin R, White E. Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2011 Jun;34(5):274-89. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2011.04.008. PMID: 21640251.

[36]Chaibi, A., Benth, J.Š., Tuchin, P.J. and Russell, M.B. (2017), Chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy for migraine: a three-armed, single-blinded, placebo, randomized controlled trial. Eur J Neurol, 24: 143-153.

[37]Moore C, Leaver A, Sibbritt D, Adams J. The features and burden of headaches within a chiropractic clinical population: A cross-sectional analysis. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Jan;48:102276. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.102276. Epub 2019 Dec 5. PMID: 31987260.

[38]Vindigni D, Zark L, Sundberg T, Leach M, Adams J, Azari MF. Chiropractic treatment of older adults with neck pain with or without headache or dizziness: analysis of 288 Australian chiropractors' self-reported views. Chiropr Man Therap. 2019;27:65. Published 2019 Dec 18. doi:10.1186/s12998-019-0288-1

[39]Millstine D, Chen CY, Bauer B. Complementary and integrative medicine in the management of headache. BMJ. 2017 May 16;357:j1805. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1805. PMID: 28512119.

[40]Chaibi A, Russell MB. Manual therapies for primary chronic headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Headache Pain. 2014;15(1):67. Published 2014 Oct 2. doi:10.1186/1129-2377-15-67

[41]Budelmann, Kim & Piekartz, Harry & Hall, Toby. (2013). Is there a difference in head posture and cervical spine movement in children with and without pediatric headache?.

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