Headache Help!

Have you had a headache lately?  You are not alone.  More people complain about headaches than any other medical ailment.

There are approximately 45 million Americans complaining of headaches each year. That works out to about one in every six people or 16.54% of the population. More than eight million Americans visit their doctor for complaints of headache each year.

Before you reach for a bottle of pills, please read on to see how chiropractic can help you win your battle with your headache!

Headache Help!

Two of the most common types of headache are tension headaches and migraine headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache.  The pain is usually dull and may be felt on the back, top, sides or front of your head.

Tension headaches occur when the muscles of the head and neck tighten up and irritate nerves of the scalp and head (cervical nerves).  Many factors can cause muscles to tighten up causing tension headaches, such as, stress, fatigue, whiplash and poor posture.

Muscles are meant to contract and relax, so avoid prolonged contraction of muscles by taking frequent breaks and doing regular stretching exercises. Avoid bending your head too far forward when reading and don’t hold the phone between your shoulder and ear, as these positions can strain muscles and trigger tension headaches.  These positions, as well as poor posture, may lead to spinal joint misalignments and disc compression, which also contribute to nerve irritation leading to headaches.

A 2001 report by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center found that “spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer lasting relief of tension-type headaches than commonly prescribed medications.”

Migraines are another common type of  headache.  Migraine headaches are usually felt as sharp or throbbing pain on one side of the head and may be accompanied by light sensitivity, nausea, visual disturbances (aura) and vomiting.

Migraines are caused by dilation or contraction of blood vessel walls which stimulate nerve endings causing headaches.  Migraine headaches are more common in women and tend to run in families.

Migraines may be triggered by fatigue, excess or insufficient sleep, menstruation, changes in the weather and exposure to bright light, loud noises or strong odors.
Also, dietary triggers which commonly cause migraines such as alcohol (especially red wine), peanuts, chocolate, aged cheese, the artificial sweetener aspartame, caffeine (in excess or withdrawal) and fermented foods should be avoided.

Keeping a record of what factors trigger an individuals migraine headaches and avoiding these triggers can often help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Significant improvement in most cases of tension headache is accomplished through manipulation of the upper two cervical vertebrae, coupled with adjustments to the junction between the thoracic and cervical spine. This is also helpful in the majority of cases of migraine headaches, as long as lifestyle and food triggers are avoided as well.