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Headache

Overview

Did you know as many as 9 out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches?  95% percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cervicogenic. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern.  The other 5% of headaches are signs and symptoms of a more serious problem.  Your chiropractor is trained to decipher the difference between these 2 groups.

The greatest majority of primary headaches are called tension headaches, which mainly arise from the muscles and joints around the upper back and neck.  A Tension headache typically feels like a tight band around the head causing a steady ache. The common causes of tension headaches are due to prolonged bad posture, improper ergonomics and a sedentary lifestyle.  Today most Americans engage in a more sedentary lifestyle with many hours spent at the computer or on the cell phone in one fixed position or posture. The side effects of holding these fixed positions are muscle tightness and joint irritation of the neck and upper back, which in turn, manifest into the ache you are feeling in your head.

A cervicogenic headache is often precipitated by neck movement and/or sustained awkward head positioning (such as painting the ceiling, or washing the floor) and can reproduced with pressure over the upper neck and base of the skull. It is often accompanied by restricted range of motion in the neck, along with neck, shoulder, or arm pain of a rather indistinct nature.

The migraine headache is a little bit more perplexing. Changes in the function of the blood or nervous systems in specific areas of the brain and changes in chemical balances within the body have been related to the cause of migraine attacks. Chiropractic treatment has been shown in numerous studies, to help reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks in many cases, especially cases of common migraines. However, a combination of massage therapy, acupuncture, relaxation techniques and nutritional support would ensure a better recovery from pain.

Chiropractic Approach

At this point you may be wondering how a chiropractor can help with your headache. As previously discussed in this article, most headaches are caused by posture, muscle tightness and joint fixations.  All of which are easily treated by a chiropractor using different tools and modalities.

A chiropractor’s main goal is to figure out the root of the problem. Once a comprehensive history and examination have been performed, a specific treatment plan is then prescribed by the doctor in order to help take you out of pain. The aim is to restore function and proper posture so that you can live the pain free life you deserve, free of headaches.

Treatment includes:

  • Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy (also known as, adjustments) to restore mobility as well as gently stretching muscles , ligaments, and tendons that have become shortened due to injury/prolonged improper posture.
  • Soft tissue therapy – aimed at breaking down adhesions, relieving spasms, stretching shortened muscles, and bringing in healthy blood flow to the surrounding structures of the injured site.
  • Rehabilitative stretches – to elongate shortened muscles, which contribute to improper alignment of the spine.
  • Rehabilitative exercises – prescribed to help support the body maintain proper posture, making it easier to avoid positions that may contribute to the source of headaches.
  • Advice on proper ergonomics and lifestyle changes that will help keep the body functioning at its optimal state.

Author: Dr. Jamie Mahtaban DC