When most people think of chiropractors, they think of someone treating back pain or knee pain. But did you know that many chiropractic patients are actually seeking headache treatment? The American Chiropractic Association reports that about 14% of people are seeking treatment to alleviate pain or tension caused by headaches. Many headaches are due to pain or tension that begins in the neck. So, it makes sense that people are seeking treatment from chiropractors.
While people are still using headache treatment from traditional doctors, these doctors are many times just offering their patients drugs that will only work to mask the symptoms and not alleviate the source of the pain. Many of these medications can also have harsh side effects that can include nausea, constipation, and some pain killers can be potentially addictive.
In 2001, researchers at Duke University, found that spinal manipulation coming from chiropractic care resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches originating in the neck. They also found that those who stopped chiropractic treatment after four weeks continued to experience sustainable benefits in regards to their headaches, as compared to patients who just received pain medications.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache that affects about 75% of people who complain of chronic headaches. This type of headache is commonly described as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. These headaches start slowly and then graduate to a more aggressive pain. Tension headaches are often a result of stress and/or bad posture, which puts stress on the spine and muscles surrounding the upper back and neck.
The most common cause of this type of headache is caused by subluxations in the upper back and neck, in combination with active trigger points. When the cervical vertebrates at the top of the spine lose their normal position, a small muscle called the rectus capitis posterior minor goes into a spasm. When the muscles spazzes, there is potential for a tendon of the muscle to slip between the upper neck and base of the skull and attach itself to a very small pain-sensitive tissue (dura mater) that covers the brain. While the brain doesn’t have any feeling, the dura mater becomes very sensitive when being tugged at by the tendon, thus occuring a headache.
Many times, people who hold desk or office jobs may suffer from this type of headache. Having routine work done on the surrounding area can help prevent from future headaches, as well as cure any current headache pain due to poor placement in the joints and muscles.
When looking at migraine headaches, about 25 million people experience them and about 75% of those people are women. Migraines are described as intense and throbbing painful headaches that are often associated with nausea and light sensitivity. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to as long as a few days.
Migraines are caused by a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain, followed by the dilation of blood vessels. Due to the constriction, there is a lack of blood flow, which is what can lead to the visual symptoms that people experience. Once the blood vessels dilate, there is an increased amount of pressure that is inside the head. This is what can lead to the pounding headache most people experience. Every time the heart beats and blood is sent to the brain, it can send a wave of pain in the neck and then up to the brain.
Much of the chiropractic treatment for headaches is called trigger point therapy. This type of therapy involves four muscles: the splenius muscle, the suboccipital, the sternocleidomastoid, and the trapezius. These muscles are located in the upper back and at the base of the skull. These trigger points, when worked on correctly, can release tension and therefore decrease a person’s ability to get headaches.
As always, before seeking any type of treatment consult with a doctor or licensed chiropractor to see if this is the best route of care.
At Life Wellness Center Inc. we specialize in treatment for both headaches and migraines. Contact either of our clinics in Eagan or Lakeville. We are also accepting new patients and would love to help you get on your way to living a pain free life. Call us today!