Thursday, April 26, 2012

Headaches and How Chiropractic Can Help

There are 5 main types of common headaches:

1. Tension headache - Often felt either on both sides of the head like a headband squeezing the head or at the base of the skull and back of the upper neck. These headaches can last anywhere from 30 minutes to nearly non-stop for a week. Tension headaches are caused by tight muscles around the head and neck.

What your Chiropractor can do - Chiropractic adjustments to the neck will release muscle tension in the head and neck especially the sub-occipital muscles at the base of the skull.

What you can do - These headaches are common in people who are in a static position all day such as sitting at a computer or driving. Stretch your neck and go through all ranges of motion once every hour or so.

2. Migraine headache - Can be on one or both sides and are usually felt as throbbing. These can last from a few hours to 3 days. You may also experience sensitivity to light or sound and can also experience nausea and vomiting associated with the headache. These are usually caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain.

What your Chiropractor can do - The vertebral artery supplies blood to the brain. Its course is straight upward through holes in the vertebrae of the neck. When one of these vertebrae gets out of position, it can cause a kink in the hose so to speak, decreasing blood flow to the brain.

What you can do - Feverfew is a medicinal herb from the Chrysanthemum family and is available over the counter at health food stores. It has been used for centuries to treat headaches and had been helpful by numerous users. Also, consult with your Chiropractor and get your neck adjusted. 

3. Cervicogenic headache - May or may not have accompanying neck pain. The muscles around the neck are usually sore if pressed upon. These headaches are commonly confused for migraine headaches as they can have an almost identical presentation including sensitivities to light or sound. Many of these headache sufferers have had previous trauma to the neck like a car accident but this is not always the case. Cervicogenic headaches are caused by irritation of the nerves coming from your spinal cord at the level of your neck and traveling to the head.

What your Chiropractor can do - The nerves of your spinal cord exit through openings created by the bottom of one vertebra and the top of the one below it. When the vertebra of your neck are misaligned, this opening is narrowed causing irritation or compression of the nerve exiting at that level of your neck. Chiropractic adjustments are safest and most effective way to return these vertebrae to their proper position.

What you can do - Loss of the natural cervical curve is extremely common, especially in those who have had previous neck trauma such as a car accident. Chiropractic care as well as therapeutic stretching and strengthening can help return this natural curve.

4. Sinus headache - Felt in the face and often, but not always, have accompanying congestion. Pain feels like pressure between the eye brows or along the sides of the nose. These are caused by congestion of the sinuses.

What your Chiropractor can do - Adjusting the neck will normalize nerve function of the nerves traveling to the face and sinuses. Also, your Chiropractor can recommend supplements to help regulate your histamine levels and dry out your sinuses.

What you can do - Over the counter saline solutions or a neti pot will get saltwater into the sinuses and help to dry up the mucous. Sinus infections can lead to serious complications, so they must be taken very seriously. 

5. Cluster headache - Felt on one side, usually around the eye. Cluster headaches may last from 15 minutes to 3 hours and can come and go multiple times throughout the day. The pain is sharp and boring and can be associated with runny nose, watery eyes, and redness of the eyes. These headaches are caused by irritation of the nerves which travel to the face and eyes.

What your Chiropractor can do - The trigeminal (tri-gem-in-al) nerve exits your brain from the brain stem. The brain stem is located just behind the first two bones in your neck. Getting a neck adjustment can help normalize nerve function and calm down irritated nerves going to the face.

What you can do - Avoid alcohol as it is a big-time trigger for cluster headaches. Stress is another trigger, so find some time to relax and take some time for yourself.

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