I recently treated a patient who had been suffering from constant, unrelenting migraine-type headaches for the past 2 years. She had tried everything and was taking painkillers, almost daily, to relieve the pain. I explained to her that I had had varying results in the past with regards to migraines, and that she should try remain positive and hopeful. The first treatment was on a Thursday. On the following Monday, she arrived at her follow up and reported the longest headache/painkiller- free period that she had experienced in the past two years!
Headaches are complicated. There are many different overlapping types with their own set of causes, signs, symptoms and management protocols. Most people are unaware that Chiropractic can be a successful treatment option for most headache types. Research shows that spinal manipulation – one of the primary treatments provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension-type, migraines and cervicogenic headaches (Bryans et al. 2011).
Step one is to diagnose the type of headache you are suffering with. Visit your health-care professional today so you can enjoy the festivities this silly season!
If you have a headache, you’re not alone. 9 out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches.
There are 150 different types of headaches and causes may include the food you eat, stress, lifestyle habits, noises, lights, sleeping patterns, blood sugar and/or exercise. Only 5 percent of headaches are caused by physical problems. The rest are known as ‘primary headaches’, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches and are mostly associated with muscle tension in the neck. With more and more sedentary time being spent in front of computers, headaches associated with muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp (such as migraines, tension-type headaches and cluster headaches) are becoming more common.
The most common type of headache among adults and teens is the tension-type headache. These cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over time, usually without other symptoms.
Migraines are accompanied by intense headaches often described as throbbing pain. They last from 4 hours to 3 days and occur up to four times per month. Migraines usually occur with associated symptoms such as sensitivity to light/noise/smells, nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite and upset stomach or belly pain.
Cluster headaches are the least common but the most severe type of headache and result in a constant throbbing/piercing pain behind or around one eye. They’re called “cluster headaches” because they tend to happen in groups. You might get them one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last 2 weeks to 3 months. Each headache attack last 15 mins to 3 hours and often wakens the patient from sleep. The eyelid droops, the eye reddens/tears and the pupil constricts on the same side as the pain and the ipsilateral nostril may run. Cluster headaches affect men 3-4 times more often than women.
Quick tips from The American Chiropractic Association (ACA)
If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour.
Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches.
Avoid teeth clenching.
Drink at least eight 8 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.
Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, et al. Evidence based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2011; 34: 274-89.