Headaches and Chiropractic Treatment

Headaches can be a very common occurrence and can interrupt your life without warning. Patients can get them as frequently as once a month, once a week or multiple times a week. There are many different types of headaches but some are more common than others. Headaches like tension, migraines and cervicogenic can be brought on or triggered by many different causes but a lot of patients have these recurring headaches due to physical attributes like joints in the neck that are misaligned which also creates pulling and tension or stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments in this region as well. Headaches are so common that 9 out of 10 people suffer from them and now research is finding that almost 15% of patients that go to see a chiropractor, are there for resolution from chronic headaches. The reason for this is that chiropractors have a great deal of success treating patients with chronic and acute headaches when the causation is due to a physical strain on the cervical region of the patient’s body.

A major problem that contributes to headaches is the fact that patients and people in general tend to live more sedentary lifestyles both from the workplace and at home and find themselves in fixed positions for long periods of time. This is a problem because we spend a lot more time hunched over our work desks or with our necks tilted down hovering a smart phone, tablet or even a laptop computer. Now because of this and since some patients have occupations that put their necks is compromising positions not to mention added work and life stressors which also like technology use, can lead to poor posture and excess tension and strain on one’s neck and cervical region. So, due to these factors the headaches stem from a dysfunction in the patient’s cervical spine and poor posture. Now both of these factors are treatable and correctable but it does take some time to restore these areas to their normal aligned positions and to set the posture back to its original correct position. Unfortunately, since these problems did not occur overnight but over months to years it takes some time to correct and stabilize the cervical region so the headaches can be resolved or minimalized.

Common headaches and their symptoms:

1.) Tension headaches– These are the most common headaches to occur amongst the patient population and patients will experience a dull aching sensation around their head. The aching sensation can be anything from mild to severe pain and it feels like a band is being tightening around your head. This causes a sensation of tension or pressure around the circumference of your head and can also create a tender feeling around the same areas as well as the scalp, neck and shoulders.

2.) Migraines- These types of headaches can be some of the most debilitating but do not occur as frequently among the patient population as tension or cervicogenic headaches. There are two types of migraine headaches, classic and common. The main difference between the two is that a classic migraine involves an “aura.” The aura is described as a visual disturbance where a person may have blurred vison accompanied by flickering spots and sometimes a person will experience a neurological deficit like pins and needles or numbness in their upper extremity on the same side as the occurring headache. The aura can occur before or during the migraine episode. Patients that experience a migraine headache whether its a classic or common migraine can have, Throbbing and pulsating pain, nausea, sound and light sensitivities, vision disturbances, vomiting and typically the pain will be on one side of the head.

3.) Cervicogenic headaches- Cervico, referring to the cervical (neck) region of your body. These headaches can be referred pain from the neck region which you feel most of the discomfort and pain in your head. Patients that experience these types of headaches will notice it from a quick sudden movement of the neck or if the neck is in a fixed position for a period of time. The symptoms that accompany a cervicogenic headache are typically, pain on one side of the head, a consistent ache that usually doesn’t throb, neck stiffness or general neck pain and pain from coughing, deep breaths or even sneezing. The pain also usually stays in one particular spot around the head and doesn’t travel to different ones.

Chiropractic is effective for headache treatment because when an adjustment takes place it is doing many positive things at once to the root cause of the problem (your neck) and creating proper functionality of the cervical and surrounding regions. When a chiropractor adjusts the patients neck they are resetting the joints to their proper position. When this happens, you are taking excess tension and pressure off of soft tissues, nerve tissue and the intervertebral discs. By decompressing these areas from the adjustment, the joints and soft tissue can be placed in a proper relaxed and natural position. This eliminates the constant stress and strain on these structures over time which can eliminate or reduce the current headaches. By taking pressure off of the nerves they can allow for proper function of muscle contraction and lengthening (relaxation) since they control how your muscles respond to your body.

I mentioned posture earlier and this is something you want to work on with your chiropractor for long term results. So, along with the adjustments your chiropractor will instruct you on a set of specific exercises and stretches to perform in the office then eventually after learning them, you can perform them at home. The functional rehabilitation exercises and stretches help to promote proper posture after the adjustments have now corrected the musculoskeletal structure back to its normal position. There are regions of the patient’s body that need to be stretched out and regions that need to be strengthened. This is also referred to as upper crossed syndrome and for more details you can refer to my blog post on upper and lower crossed syndromes or watch my video on how to improve your posture. Headaches can be debilitating, painful and interrupt your life if action is not taken. So, it’s important to have you chiropractor take some x-rays and perform a couple of tests to see if your headaches are stemming from your neck and the surrounding musculoskeletal structures as well as contributions from poor posture.