If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea. What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.

Research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.

What is a Headache?

A headache may arise from muscular tension, vascular changes, sinus congestion, eyestrain and many other underlying causes. They can start over the eyes, in the back of the head, on the sides or top of the head, or feel centered behind the eyes. The amount of pain associated with a headache may range from a mild ache to a throbbing, nauseating, relentless pain.

Three types of headaches most commonly seen in chiropractic offices are tension headaches, migraine headaches, and cervicogenic headaches. Cervicogenic headaches are caused by pain referred to the head from the bony or soft tissues of the neck.

A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, 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 headache than a commonly prescribed medication.

Chiropractic and Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are caused by muscular tension and contraction involving the muscles of the shoulders, neck and head. Often this tension is a result of emotional stress or guarding after the neck musculature after an injury. It is normal for muscles to contract/tighten when put under duress. Over time, if this muscle tension is not addressed, the tension becomes chronic and leads to uneven stresses on the skeletal structure of the body, and changes in normal posture and movement to compensate. These misalignments lead to more muscular tension and contraction irritating the nerves leading up to the head. This can become a vicious cycle that eventually results in pain, often as headache pain.

Chiropractic adjustments, combined with other therapies such as trigger point therapy and massage, can release muscular tension and realign the skeleton to break the cycle of pain. Often patients with chronic headaches will find relief through chiropractic in just a few treatments, as muscles relax and nerve irritation is reduced.

Chiropractic and Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are vascular headaches, arising from sudden dilation of the blood vessels of the head. The cause of migraine headaches is widely unknown, though the basic mechanism, involving both the nervous and vascular systems, is well studied. Migraines can be triggered by hormonal changes, foods, smells, weather changes, stress, and many other triggers. The headaches often begin with symptoms other than pain, such as visual auras, nausea or sensitivity to light and sound. The headache that follows can vary in intensity, but is often severe. Many migraine sufferers have found over-the-counter pain medications to be ineffective, and resign themselves to wait out the migraine event in a dark, quiet room. A variety of pharmaceutical drugs have been developed to treat migraines, but none of them work for everyone, and many have unwanted side effects.

Chiropractic can play an important role in treating migraines. Clinical studies suggest that chiropractic may have a measurable role in the prevention of migraines. Through manipulation and adjustments of the spine and neck, migraines can often be reduced or prevented. Nerves control vascular system tension, and chiropractic adjustments reduce irritation of the nervous system beginning with its roots in the spine, also improving vascular flow.

How Will a Doctor of Chiropractic Treat Headaches?

The fundamental technique of chiropractic, spinal manipulation, is used improve spinal alignment, reduce nerve irritation, relax muscle tension and improve vascular flow. Trigger point therapy, massage and other rehabilitative modalities may also be used to expedite the treatment plan. Finally, the chiropractor will often recommend exercise, stretching and changes in posture to maintain relief.

Chiropractic care can provide a holistic, comprehensive treatment plan for chronic headaches, giving patients an opportunity to put an end to what can be a very stubborn type of pain and a considerable improvement in quality of life.

With concerns regarding headaches and other related painful conditions please contact the office at 732-920-8188 or email dryanchus@brickfamilychiropractic.com.