Headaches and Migraines
Causes of Headaches
Headaches are caused by specific interactions between the brain, nerves and blood vessels. During a headache attack, specific nerves of blood vessels in the head are activated. When this happens the nerves transmit pain signals to your brain. Unfortunately in most cases it is unclear as to why the signals are activated in the first place. We do know that acute headaches that occur suddenly are usually caused by an infection, an illness, fever or cold. Headaches can also be caused by sinusitis (this refers to inflammation of the sinuses), otitis (ear inflammation or infection) or pharyngitis.
Emotional stress linked to school, alcohol, work, changes in patterns of sleep, skipping meals, depression, tension and excessive use of medication are common causes of chronic non-progressive headaches or tension headaches.
How a Chiropractor can help deal with your headache
According to research, chiropractic care may be the best answer for treating tension headaches and other headaches originating in the neck. Scientists at Duke University Evidence-Based Center in Durham released a report which said spinal manipulations led to almost instant improvement in headaches that started in the neck. Spinal manipulation was also reported to have significantly fewer side effects than prescribed medication and also led to longer-lasting relief of tension headaches.
What a chiropractor doctor will do
- Perform chiropractic adjustments and spinal manipulations to improve spinal function and alleviate stress on your system.
- Give you nutritional advice and recommend change in your diet plan.
- Give you advice on ergonomics, posture, relaxation techniques and exercises. You should use the advice to relieve chronic jaw pain, muscle tension in the upper back and joint irritation.
Benefits of chiropractic care in treating headachesChiropractors are known for effectively and safely treating acute neck pain and headaches. While a medical doctor may prescribe pain medication or anti-inflammatory medicine- chiropractors will treat the actual cause of the problem. This method is more than just a quick fix from the pain it creates long lasting results!
Causes for Headaches and MigrainesHeadache manifests itself in various ways and reasons include drug reactions or side effects, high blood pressure, low blood sugar, TMJ or temporomandibular joint dysfunction, tightening of neck muscles, stress and fatigue. The greater number of this recurrent sensation fall under two types, namely, tension or cervicogenic headaches and migraine headaches. A third, less prevailing form is the cluster headache that's associated with migraine.
Types of Headaches
- steady, dull pain that "caps" your scalp
- tension in head or neck
- mild light, sound and touch sensitivity
Also referred to as stress headaches, this is the most common type which comprises more than 75% of headaches. Tension headaches affect nearly everybody at some stage in their life. Some people experience this type of headache almost daily. The primary symptom of a tension-type headache is muscle tension that occurs on the back section of the neck or on both sides of the head. The neck pain is not sharp but it is serious and constant. Most people describe the pain as a squeezing feeling surrounding their heads.
It may result from stress or poor posture which impacts the spine and muscles located on the upper back and neck. The most common cause are subluxations in these areas, mixed with other active trigger points. Whenever the top cervical vertebrae is mispositioned, small muscle called RCPM or rectus capitis posterior minor goes into spasm which then tugs a pain-sensitive tendon referred to as dura mater, therefore the headache occurs. This is usually the case for headache sufferers performing desk jobs. Pain can also be sourced from trigger points rooted from a levetor muscle found on the side of the neck called SCM or Sternocleidomastoid (SCM). This is the case for people suffering a whiplash injury from muscle damage around the neck.
- visual changes
- extreme sensitivity to light, sound & touch
- one-sided pain
Migraines are characterized by very intense pain. It is thought that over 36 million people in America suffer from migraines. In some people the onset of a migraine begins with an “aura” present before the start of the migraine pain. Auras may be visual (seeing spots or lines) or they can cause verbal or motor disturbances. The pain associated with a migraine headache is usually described as piercing or throbbing. Those suffering from this type of headache report sensitivity to light and sound as well as feelings of sickness and nausea.
Migraine headaches tend to run in families with the notion that there's a genetic underlying factor that causes it. A constriction in the brain's blood vessels followed by a dilation causes it. The decrease in blood flow during constriction leads to the visual signs or migraine aura, then once it dilates, a rapid increase and gush in blood pressure takes place which results to the pounding headache. Though there are many theories as to why this occurs, migraines may be triggered by sleep deprivation, stress, flickering lights, strong stench, shifting weather patterns, and certain food especially those high in an amino acid known as tyramine. Lifestyle changes can help reduce instances of migraine headaches.
- pain near forehead or around the eyes
- series of headaches
- water, swollen eyes
- drooping eyelid
- excruciating pain
Cluster headaches are typically more prevalent in men than in women. The headaches are very severe and very intense and will often last for about 30-45 minutes. You can suffer from several cluster headaches in a day. Cluster headaches can come without any warning and often catch victims unaware. The pain is usually piercing and tends to center on one part of the head, normally around the eye. Those affected complain of watery eyes and sinus congestion on the side that is affected.
- pain behind brow bone, cheekbone, and eyes
- increased pain when leaning forward
- sensitivity to light, sound & touch
- nasal congestion
- watery, red, itchy or swollen eyes
These types of headaches are characterized by constant and deep pain in the forehead, cheekbones or the bridge of the nose. The pain typically becomes worse with sudden head movements and is usually accompanied with other sinus symptoms like feelings of fullness in ears, facial swelling, fever and nasal discharge.
Prevalent in children, these kinds of headaches tend to occur suddenly, and symptoms will usually go away after a short period of time. In most cases, acute headaches require seeking professional help. Acute headaches that occur in children are often accompanied by neurological symptoms or signs. For children and adolescents, the most common cause of this type of headache is a sinus or respiratory infection.
These refer to menstrual headaches that normally begin prior to the onset of a woman’s period. Migraines are normally linked to menstruation, with symptoms including sharp and throbbing pain on one part of the head, vomiting, nausea and sensitivity to sound, light and sometimes even touch.
Chiropractic Care for Headaches
A vast number of studies have been conducted which makes it evident how chiropractic adjustments can greatly help. A 2001 report done by Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center researchers situated in Durham, NC, showed that spinal manipulation yielded an almost immediate improvement for headaches rooted in the neck area. There are substantially less side effects compared to prescribed medications, and gives highly favorable long-lasting relief from tension headaches. The findings support an earlier study printed in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, showing the same idea and that even those who stopped receiving chiropractic treatment after 4 weeks continued to enjoy its sustained benefits unlike those who received pain medications.
Headache Trigger Points
The trigger point therapy primarily involves four muscle groups:
Splenius - This is composed of two individual muscles - Splenius Capitis and the Splenius Cervicis, both running from the upper back to either the skull base (capitis) or the upper cervical vertebrae (cervicis). Trigger points involve pain that may traverse to the head towards the back of the eye to the topmost part of the head.
Causes for Headaches and Migraines - A group of 4 small muscles which functions to maintain proper movement and positioning of the skull base and first cervical vertebra. The whole head may hurt similar to that of a migraine, wherein pain feels like it's inside the head extending to the back of the eye and surrounding the forehead.
SCM or Sternocleidomastoid - This runs from the skull base, right behind the ear and going down to the side of the neck until the top of the breastbone. The effects are broad which include referred pain deep in the eye or earaches, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances and imbalances.
Trapezius - A huge and flat muscle located in the upper and mid back, where the trigger point sits on the very top of the muscle, referring pain to the temple and back of the head, which may lead to jaw and tooth pain as well.
How to Avoid Headache Triggers
Headaches may keep coming back affecting the trigger points, but if you would be cautious of them and observe a healthier lifestyle, headaches and the great discomfort they bring can be kept at bay. Here are some tips to avoid headache triggers:
- Keep a diary of headache occurrences for you to determine its patterns and unravel the underlying causes.
- Consider all possibilities such as stress, menstrual periods, weather changes, and certain types of food.
- Steer Clear of foods with flavor enhancers like soy sauce and tenderizers which contain MSG or monosodium glutamate.
- Avoid ripened cheeses, chocolate, pickled or fermented food which are high in tyramine.
- Be wary that blood vessels can dilate with recurrent exposure to nitrite compounds or the chemicals used to preserve food, typically found in hotdogs or processed meat.
- Headaches may be a result of exposure to poisons and household chemicals like insecticides and carbon tetrachloride, and lead products like batteries and paint.
- Relax to break-free from stress and keep in mind that emotional factors are related to the development of headaches, including depression, frustration, anxiety and even extreme excitement.
- Better yet, relieve pain quickly and speed up recovery through chiropractic care. Contact us today and we will help you achieve the highest quality of life you deserve!
If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic or acute headaches give Schneider Clinic a call at (574) 293-7000 to see how we can help you.
"My name is Cindy and I came to the Schneider clinic seeking help for tension headaches that I suffered from for many years. I was first introduced to Dr. Schneider by a “Dear Neighbor” Letter offering his services. I was immediately drawn to this letter as I noticed that Schneider Clinic specializes in headaches as well as back pain.
My headaches affected a huge part of my life. I had difficulty concentrating at work and began to make errors. Also, I had to immediately go home from work to sit the rest of the day and night to find relief from my headaches. Essentially, I was not able to do the things that I loved to do or able to live the kind of life that I wanted to. So I sought help.
I first went to another Chiropractor, then my Family Physician, and finally a Neurologist. Only to find that over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, treatments, tests etc. did not provide relief for my headaches. I have always been a believer in chiropractic care (been treated on-and-off for 26 years), however, was not getting the results or relief that I wanted.
Upon my first visit with therapy and a manipulation at Schneider clinic, I found relief from my headaches! In three weeks time I became headache free and have continued to be. My husband and friends began to notice that I had a more positive attitude, more energy, and also more of an ability to be free to focus. I felt so good that by the third week, I decided to re-decorate/re-wallpaper my bathroom which had been an endeavor of mine for some time!
If I had not come to Schneider Clinic, I would still be suffering from headaches, spending a lot of time and money on medical bills, and still finding no answers or relief. I am very thankful for the services and care that I received at Schneider Clinic. It has changed my life and I am grateful for that!"~Cindy