What do you do when a headache strikes? Do you pop a pill and cross your fingers that the drug will provide relief, even if only for a few hours? Do you lie down, assuming a nap will cure the pain in your head? Do you try to tough it out, hoping the pounding will go away on its own?
There is a more effective way to alleviate your distressing headache.
From cervicogenic headaches to migraines and tension headaches, chiropractic is a proven, safe, and drug-free way to diagnose, treat, and prevent headaches. Here’s everything you need to know about headache triggers, the four types of headaches that chiropractic can effectively remedy, and the types of treatment your personal care plan may include.
Headaches manifest themselves in different ways and for a variety of reasons. For some people, a headache is pain behind their eyes when the weather changes. For others, it’s a dull pounding accompanied by nausea when they don’t get enough sleep. Other common headache triggers include:
- Blood sugar changes
- Excessive exercise
- Food (especially those containing amino acids, MSG, and sodium nitrate)
- Neck injuries
- Menstrual cycles
According to the American Chiropractic Association, the greatest majority of headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck. This should come as no surprise since people today spend more time in fixed positions—such as sitting in front of a computer—and engaged in olther sedentary activities. This can cause joint irritation and muscle tension in the upper back, neck, and scalp, resulting in a headache.
Regardless of the trigger, level of pain, and location, a headache usually does not go away on its own. Understanding the type of headache you’re experiencing will help you determine the cause so you can seek appropriate treatment—and lasting relief.
4 Types of Headaches
While there are many different types of headaches, there are four types of headaches for which chiropractic care can be most effective:
- Cervicogenic Headache: This is one of the least common types of headaches, and it is usually caused by an underlying neck problem or disorder. Typically presenting with pain on one side only, a cervicogenic headache starts at the back of the head and works its way to the front of the head or behind the eyes. Many people also experience same-side shoulder or arm pain. Unfortunately, this type of headache doesn’t improve with medication.
- Cluster Headache: One of the most painful types of headaches, a cluster headache gets its name from the cyclical clusters in which it occurs. Although a cluster headache itself usually doesn’t last very long, bouts of attacks (known as cluster periods) can last for weeks or months. During this period, excruciating headaches—usually felt on one side of the head behind the eyes—occur one to four times per day and can be accompanied by a runny nose, eye redness, and other symptoms on the affected side. A cluster period is usually followed by a long period (months or years) of remission.
- Migraine: This debilitating headache is caused by constriction and dilation of the blood vessels in the brain. The dilation produces a rapid increase in blood pressure inside the head, leading to an intense and throbbing headache. A migraine can last for a few hours or a few days, and it is usually accompanied by dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Many people even experience an aura right before a migraine strikes. Depending on the trigger, a migraine can occur just once a year or several times a month.
- Tension Headache: As its name indicates, a tension headache is the result of prolonged muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, or head. It is characterized by a constant dull, achy feeling one one side or both sides of the head, often described as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. A tension headache is the most prevalent type of headache, and it can last anywhere from thirty minutes to a few days.
Chiropractic Care Can Alleviate Your Headaches
As a spine, muscle, and nervous system expert, a chiropractor is trained to diagnose the underlying cause of your headaches—and then treat that cause, helping your body heal itself and function at its best. During your first appointment, your chiropractor will ask you about your health history and perform an examination. This will help him determine whether your symptoms are due to muscle tension, joint dysfunction of your spine, or other triggers.
After your assessment, your chiropractor will recommend a personal chiropractic care plan that will not only help you manage your headaches but also foster overall healing for your body. Depending on your symptoms, your plan may include a combination of the following treatments:
- Spinal manipulation: Research shows that spinal manipulation (also known as a chiropractic adjustment) may be an effective treatment for cluster headaches, tension headaches, and headaches that originate in the neck. By applying a controlled force to your spine, this hands-on technique can improve spinal and nerve function and joint motion, reduce inflammation, alleviate stress, and restore proper communication within your nervous system.
- Massage therapy: By focusing on trigger points in the head, neck, shoulders, and back, massage therapy can decrease migraine and tension headache pain and discomfort. In fact, studies show that massage therapy can decrease the occurrence of headaches and sleep disturbances in adults afflicted with migraines. Massage also promotes relaxation and reduces mental and physical stress which can trigger headaches.
- Nutritional adjustments: Since certain foods can trigger headaches in some people, your chiropractor may recommend eliminating or limiting particular foods in your current diet.
- Electric stimulation: If your headaches are triggered by bodily pain, muscle spasms, or inflammation, your chiropractor may recommend electric stimulation. During this safe, non-invasive therapy, electrodes are placed on you skin near your problem area. Those electrodes then send low-frequency electrical currents to your muscles to stimulate muscle contractions, to relieve pain, strengthen your muscles, and reduce spasms and inflammation. Electric stimulation is most effective when used in conjunction with chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic exercise.
- Therapeutic exercises: Studies show that chiropractic works best when it is done in conjunction with other types of therapies, including exercise. If exercise is safe for you, your chiropractor may recommend specific exercises and stretches to increase strength, promote joint health, decrease bodily pain, prevent muscle deterioration, and improve your range of motion.
- Ultrasound therapy: If your headaches stem from back or neck pain or stiffness, ultrasound therapy may be a good option for you. By sending sound waves into your muscle tissues, ultrasound therapy promote tissue healing, extensibility, and circulation, resulting in increased mobility and decreased pain.
- Dry needling: This safe, drug-free treatment can help relieve your headaches if tense muscles are the cause. By inserting thin, small needles into your skin and tight muscle, dry needling can reduce muscle tension, relieve your pain, improve your flexibility, and increase your range of motion. While you may experience a little discomfort, dry needling is typically less painful than the pain you’re already experiencing—and you will most likely feel pain relief after just one treatment.
Whether you experience an occasional pounding in your head or you’ve been plagued with any of the aforementioned headaches for years, chiropractic can give you lasting headache relief, allowing you to live your life to the fullest.
At All Star Chiropractic, our goal is to help our patients recover from back pain, neck pain, lack of mobility, joint issues, range of motion issues, and more—without the use of prescription drugs. We believe in taking a holistic “whole-body” approach to your health. We don’t want to just temporarily fix your pain—we want to determine and treat the root cause so you live an active and pain-free life.
Call one of our locations today to schedule an appointment, or to learn more about how chiropractic care can help you.