Headache is the most frequent reason for people to seek advice from their health practitioner and is the primary reason for 10% of visits to chiropractors. Numerous causes exist, but in many instances headaches are a direct result of irritation to the nerves communicating with the head and neck. Research shows chiropractic care to be of great benefit to many headache sufferers.
The pain of headache
From major trauma such as a car or sporting accident, or from repetitive minor trauma associated with poor posture, incorrect sleeping position or poor bedding. Pain may be felt at the base of the skull, or spread throughout the surface of the head, to the face and eyes, It may be felt on one or both sides of the head.
Often other symptoms accompany headache, such as visual disturbances (blurring, flashes of light etc), nausea, facial pain, tingling, jaw tension, teeth grinding, hearing disturbances and dizziness. Many symptoms can result from one cause,
Three major categories exist:
Headaches are often due to poorly functioning neck joints (subluxations) which affect the nerves to the neck, head and face. Other causes may include damaged muscles and ligaments of the neck, jaw imbalance, lower spine problems and cranial dysfunction.
Emotional stress increases muscular tension, particularly at the base of the neck, head and jaw. This can irritate nerves and upset blood flow, causing headache.
Certain foods(e.g,chocolate, wine, beer, eggs, tomatoes), chemicals, and environmental pollutants may trigger an allergic type reaction resulting in headache.
Causes of Headaches
Though there are many types of headaches, a frequent and overlooked cause of headaches is the malfunction of spinal bones in the neck and upper back. When bones of the spine lose their normal position or motion, sensitive nerves and blood vessels to the head can be affected. When spinal nerves and related tissues are stretched or irritated, they can produce throbbing headaches.
Aspirin and medications may cover up these warning signs, but do not correct the underlying structural cause.
- Many people find relief and correction with chiropractic care. If a thorough examination reveals reduced range of motion, loss of normal spine curves, or mechanical restrictions, chiropractic care should be considered. After a complete explanation, you’ll receive a care program designed for your unique spinal problem.
- Many patients report headache relief. Others find that the correction takes longer because their spinal problem has existed undetected for many years. Every patient responds differently.
- Regardless of how you respond, experience the drug-free results millions have enjoyed by consulting a chiropractic doctor.
First Aid for Headaches
Drink half your body weight in ounces of pure water every day. Example: A 68 kg. person needs to drink 2 litres of water per day.
Ice is a topical anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling and pain. Apply ice to the back of the neck for 15 minutes and remove for 45 minutes. Repeat as often as necessary. If the headache persists for mre than 24 hours call your chiropractor for an evaluation.
Remember: headaches are warning signs and not the cause of your problem. Preventive steps involving regular check-ups and minimisation of body stresses are essential.
Call Your Chiropractor If:
- You have pain behind your eyes.
- You have pain that makes you dizzy.
- You have pain in your temples.
- You have pain in the back of your head on one or both sides.
- You have pain that goes down the back of your neck into the tops of your shoulders.
- You have a constant spasm in your shoulders that radiates up into your neck.
- You have a headache that persists for three or more days.
- Your child complains of a headache that lasts for more than one hour.
Ways to Minimize Headache Frequency
The key to prevention is:
- Maintenance of a healthy lifestyle
- Reduction of external stresses
- Early detection of problems
The chiropractor will examine and may x-ray your spine to determine its involvement in your problem. Other areas such as the jaw and skull may also be examined. A program of management will be recommended if it is considered that chiropractic care may be of benefit. After initial care to alleviate your problem, your chiropractor may recommend a suitable level of ongoing care to assist in maintaining good health and preventing future problems.
Chiropractors promote body wellness, encouraging you to keep your body at its optimum level of function so that resistance is at its peak
Looking after your spine, is just part of this overall practice and philosophy which may involve:
Regular Chiropractic care
Chiropractor is educated in methodologies that promote proper function of the spine and nerves. Occasionally, headache may be a sign of a more serious condition. The chiropractor is educated to assist in the management of headache, and refer the patient to other health practitioners when necessary.
Be Aware of Posture
Stand and sit tall, concentrate on lifting the rib cage, chin slightly tucked in. Relax your shoulders and ensure that your head is not continually turned to one side. Use
document stands and sloping desk surfaces where appropriate to avoid the stress of constantly looking down. Take regular rest breaks.
Regular Sleep schedule
Waking and sleeping times can play a critical role in controlling headaches. Sleep deprivation is a common headache trigger, as is oversleeping. Make an effort to normalize your sleep patterns helping your body to become regulated. Do not sleep on your stomach, try a contoured pillow which moulds to support the curves of the neck and use a supportive mattress.
Smoking cigarettes or breathing second hand smoke can increase your headache. Although quitting smoking is not a guarantee that headaches will stop, it can ease the problem by eliminating the impurities and the carbon monoxide levels found in the blood of smokers.
Eat a Healthful Diet
Most offending foods and seasonings will cause headaches shortly after you eat them. Some foods will only cause headaches if you eat a certain quantity. For example, nitrates in a hot dog may not bother you until you’ve had your second one. Cut down on foods and beverages that contain caffeine, chocolate, nitrates (preserved meats), fermented foods, alcohol, foods that contain MSG and artificial sweeteners which contain aspartame.
Skipped meals or irregular eating schedules can increase headaches. If this appears to be a cause, try to eat meals at regular intervals or carry
snacks with you so you can eat when your body requires food.
Though it’s almost impossible to eliminate stress from a fast-paced, high-pressure lifestyle, try to implement techniques that will help minimize its impact on your life. Take deep breaths, meditate, pray and keep a sense of humor.
Be sure to exercise regularly, lower the unreasonable demands you put on yourself and leave work on time so you can spend leisure time with your family and friends. Devote time each day to reducing the effects of daily stress.
Avoid Certain Odours
Perfume, lotions, cosmetic bases, colognes, cleaning products, auto exhausts and cooking smells can all bring on a headache. Though you can’t always control your environment, you can be sure that you and your family do not use or create scents that may irritate you.
Facts about Headaches
- During the past year, nearly 90% of men and 95% of women have had at least one headache.
- Migraine headaches afflict 25 to 30 million people in the United States alone.
- Tension type headaches are the most common, affecting more than 75% of all headache sufferers.
Number of Days of Lost Production/Restricted Activity Per Year
- Employed Males 2.7 million days
- Employed Females 18.8 million days
- Housewives 38.5 million days
Kids & Headaches
- 20% of adults report the onset of headaches prior to age ten.
- American children ages 5-17 missed 4.2 million days of school last year complaining of headaches.
- Many migraine patients experienced their first headache before age seven.
1. Chapman-Smith,D(1991) ‘Chiropractic management ot Headache’. The Chiropractic Report, Jan.I991.VoI.5,No.2
2. Grieve.G.P. (1981) ‘Common Vertebral Joint Problems’,Churchill Livingstone, pp.181-184.
3. WighI.J.S.(1978) ‘Migraine: A Statistical Analysis of Chiropractic Treatment’, ACA J.Chiro 15(9):S63-7.
4. Parker,G.B.et 01(1978) ‘A Controlled Trial ot Cervical Manipulation for Migraine’, Aust.N.Z. J.Med.8:589-593.
5. Verno.H.(1982) ‘Manipulative Treatment in the Chiropractic Treatment ot Headaches: A Retrospective and Prospective Study’, J.Manip. Physiol. Ther.5:109-112.
6. Upledger,J.D.(l984), ‘Craniosacral Therapy’, Eastland Press, Seattle, ISBN 0¬939616-01-7.
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Headaches are one of the most common ailments to affect Australians, with between 75 and 90 per cent of the population suffering one or more headaches in anyone year.
If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.
If you like this article be sure to visit the Spinal Centre website at www.thespinalcentre.com.au and view more content by Dr. Hooper and the Spinal Rehabilitation Team.
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