Headaches and Chiropractic - Oh, My aching head!
“My head is killing me!! I have had a dull achy pain in the back of my head for the past two weeks. It is an intense dull ache that just won't go away. The pain gradually gets worse throughout the day as I try to do my work. The pain spreads up the back of my head, around my ears, and even behind my eyes. I have been taking some pain medication, but it never gets rid of it. I will eventually have to find somewhere to lay down so that I don't scream. I don't know what to do to stop this pain.”
Every year in the US, there are approximately 45 million people that are dealing with chronic headaches. The most common types of headaches are Tension Type Headaches(TTH), Cervicogenic Headaches, and Migraine Headaches. There are many other types of headaches but only the most common will be discussed in this article.
The head pain story at the beginning of this article is classic for a Tension Type Headache(TTH). TTH comes from muscle tension in the neck area. This tension develops as a result of the prolonged sitting positions that most jobs these days require. The classic example is someone sitting at the computer for hours on end. They are tense from emotional stress and then they start to tense there neck, chest, shoulder, and back muscles as they work. This brings the shoulders and head forward, which further increases the tension of the neck muscles. The symptoms are dull achy head pain with tightness or pressure in the forehead, side, and back of the head. TTH is the most common type of headache experienced by adults affecting 10-65% of the population. According to the International Headache Society, these headaches can last from 30 minutes to 7 days, usually do not include nausea/vomiting but may cause sensitivity to light or noise. These headaches can be very disruptive to a person's daily activities. Treatment of this type of headache usually includes over-the-counter pain medications and rest. The best treatment is to correct the forward head and shoulder posture. Chiropractic adjustments to the upper neck and shoulders can reduce muscular tension in these areas and prevent the problem from turning into a headache.
The second common type of headache is lesser known, but still very common. It is called a Cervicogenic Headache. “Cervicogenic” is defined as from the neck, so Cervicogenic headaches are any headache that can be tied to dysfunction of the joints, muscles, and other structures of the neck. Any irritation, restriction, or lack of motion of the top three vertebra will irritate the spinal nerves that exit the spinal cord at the level of these vertebra. New research has shown that there is a connection between the vertebra, muscles, and the dura mater at the level of the first cervical vertebra. The dura mater is a thick connective tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. Irritation of the dura mater at the C1 vertebra can cause headache pain. These headaches will produce a dull achy pain in the back of the head and neck, as well as pain behind the eyes. The symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches are very similar to tension type headaches and one can lead to the other. Both can be very debilitating. Cervicogenic headaches respond very well to chiropractic adjustments to the upper cervical spine. Restoring the proper motion of the cervical joints can quickly treat this type of headache.
The last type to be covered is probably the most commonly discussed headache, the Migraine Headache. The cause of this type is constriction (or closing off) of the blood vessels that feed the brain. The decrease in blood flow causes the classic aura symptoms of flashing lights and other visual disturbances. The brain tissue reacts to the decreased blood flow by releasing chemicals that cause the blood vessels to dilate (or to open up). This is like turning on a fire hose and forcing too much blood into the area. This excess of blood creates the deep throbbing pain of the classic migraine headache. The symptoms of a migraine headache are a very intense throbbing pain over the whole head that may be accompanied by irritation from light and sound. These headaches are very disabling. The most common treatment of migraines is with prescription medication. This is effective in some people but these medications tend to have a lot of negative side-effects. Migraines tend to be triggered by various substances that we eat, drink, or inhale, so finding and avoiding these triggers can be very effective. Chiropractic adjustments to the upper spine have been shown to help reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines, without any of the negative side-effects.
Contact us today to start treting your headaches.