Headaches are one of the most common health complaints experienced by Australians. Everyone will experience a headache at some point in their life. Chiropractic care has been shown to be very effective in treating the most common forms of headaches. There are hundreds of classifications of different forms of headache, with many different causes.
Three of the most common causes of headache are listed below. Together these three classifications make up nearly 90% of all headache diagnoses, and Chiropractic care is an effective method for treating each one.
Cervicogenic means “from the neck”. These headaches occur as a result of pain being referred from the neck up into the head. The upper cervical spine contains nerve roots that communicate with parts of the head, such as the face and base of the skull. When there is a problem with the joints, muscles or ligaments in the neck, these nerves become irritated, and pain can be referred into the areas of the body supplied by these nerves.
Cervical headaches involve pain around the forehead and base of the skull and are associated with restricted neck movement, pain in the neck, shoulders or arms and feelings of tightness in the neck. Often they are associated with a sustained awkward head posture, which may be the result of everyday work life (such as a hunched posture from prolonged desk or computer work, or professions that involve looking upwards a lot such as painters).
These headaches are the most common of all headaches. They usually involve a steady ache and are described as a feeling of pressure or tightening, like someone has your head in a vice. These symptoms may last minutes to days, affect both sides of the head, and do not worsen with physical activity. They may also be accompanied by an increased sensitivity to light and noise.
Tension type headaches may also be chronic, and can occur daily. The exact mechanism behind the pain felt during a tension headache is unclear, but many triggers have been identified that can cause tension headaches, such as stress, poor posture, eye strain and poor sleep.
True migraines are actually fairly uncommon compared to other forms of headaches, but are one of the most instantly recognisable. Migraines are generally severe headaches, and can be disabling when they occur. Symptoms involve a throbbing, moderate to severe pain, mainly on one side of the head, made worse by daily activity. They can last 4-72 hours. Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound often accompany migraines. In around 20% of migraines, an “aura” may occur before head pain begins, involving a disturbance in vision, and/or an experience of brightly coloured or blinking lights in a pattern that moves across the field of vision.
Usually, migraine attacks are occasional, but can occur once or twice a week. The precise mechanism behind migraine headaches is very complicated, and involves abnormal activity of blood vessels in the brain and an abnormal interpretation of normal sensations. Why this happens is unknown, but like tension headaches, many triggers have been identified such as bright lights, some particular foods, tension in the neck, poor posture and stress.
How Does Chiropractic Help?
As discussed before, tension headaches and migraines are often ‘triggered’ by joint and nerve dysfunction of the neck. This means episodes of these headaches can arise whenever there is tension, stress or poor posture placed on the cervical spine. In the case of cervicogenic headaches, the pain felt during the headache actually comes from biomechanical dysfunction in the neck itself.
Through Chiropractic adjustment of the spine, Chiropractors can correct biomechanical dysfunction of the neck that may be a triggering or causal factor in the headache. By removing the biomechanical triggers and causes of headaches, headache frequency and severity is signifacntly reduced.
In addition to chiropractic adjustments, myotherapy is used to loosen the tense muscles around the neck and jaw. This also reduces stressors placed on the neck and improves the neck joint and muscle movement.
Chiropractic treatment may also include other modalities such as the application of ice packs, general nutrition advice and lifestyle changes to help the sufferer avoid triggers.
Our Chiropractors provide a very effective treatment method for headaches. Whether it’s debilitating migraines, tension headaches or cervicogenic headaches, chiropractic has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for long term relief and prevention of pain.