Headaches - Causes and Treatments

Many people suffer with different types of headaches, in fact it has been estimated that the number is nine out of ten. The post-holiday season can be a very stressful time, credit card debt, back to work and school, not to mention the approaching tax season all contributors. Stress is one of the most common headache triggers. The headache discomfort can be occasional, frequent, throbbing, dull, and CAN be a disabling pain that includes nausea. How do you handle a headache when you get one? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.

Research shows that spinal manipulation – one of the primary treatments provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. A 2014 report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) found that interventions commonly used in chiropractic care improved outcomes for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain and increased benefit was shown in several instances where a multimodal approach to neck pain had been used1. Also, a 2011 JMPT study found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.

Headache Triggers

Above we mentioned that stress was a headache trigger, but headaches have many causes, or “triggers” including many foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems. The remaining 95 percent of headaches are headaches such as tension/stress, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease; the headache itself is the primary concern.

Muscle tension in the neck seems to be the most common trigger for headaches right alongside poor sleep, standing and sitting postures and ineffective ergonomics, (i.e. having your computer monitor too low). Excessive inactivity has been associated with tension headaches. Americans engage in more sedentary activities than in the past, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture (such as sitting in front of a computer). This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.

What Can You Do? 

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) offers the following suggestions to prevent headaches:
If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on a sewing machine, typing or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.
Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if youare prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Instead choose activities like walking and low-impact aerobics. Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.
Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

Your doctor of chiropractic may do one or more of the following if you suffer from a primary headache:

Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system.

Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet and perhaps the addition of B complex vitamins.
Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques. This advice should help to relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.

Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to help their patients in many ways beyond just treatment for low-back pain. They know how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, and they can take steps to relieve those problems.

Many of my patients who have suffered with headaches have responded VERY favorably to the chiropractic adjustments. Be sure to include a chiropractic evaluation to see if Chiropractic treatment could help you too!... Why continue to suffer needlessly?

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