Chiropractic and Headaches
Chiropractic Care May Help Your Headache Pain
Headaches are often dismissed as minor ailments that can be easily cured simply by popping a few over-the-counter pain relievers. Although pain medication may be helpful for occasional headaches, it's not always effective for chronic headache pain. Pain relievers can also cause liver or kidney damage and other serious side effects if you take too many of them. Fortunately, chiropractic care offers a drug-free treatment option.
What Kind of Headache Do You Have?
Chiropractors often treat patients who have these types of headaches:
- Tension Headaches: Tension headaches occur when the muscles in your neck and head contract and become too tight. You may feel tightness and pain in your forehead only, or the pain may wrap around to the back your head and your neck. The headaches can be caused by stress, poor posture, or even looking down at your cellphone for hours.
- Migraine Headaches: Migraine, the sixth most disabling illness in the world, affects 18 percent of women, 6 percent of men and 10 percent of children in the U.S., according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Pain, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, in addition to other unpleasant symptoms, can affect the quality of your life and make it difficult to work or care for your family.
- Cluster Headaches: These extremely painful headaches typically occur on one side of the head and last 10 minutes to several hours. They're called "cluster" headaches because sufferers usually get multiple headaches in one day. The headaches can disappear for months at a time and may reappear at the same times every year.
How Do Chiropractors Treat Headaches?
Treatment options depend on the type of headache you have, but may include:
- Spinal Manipulation: Manipulation relieves pressure on your joints, realigns your spine, improves blood flow, and helps relax tight muscles. Your chiropractor uses his or her hands or an activator to apply quick, forceful pressure to the vertebrae. Spinal manipulation is particularly helpful if nerve irritation triggers your migraines or cluster headaches. Manipulation relieves pressure on your nerves, easing your pain and reducing the frequency of your headaches.
- Spinal Mobilization: Spinal mobilization involves gentle, hands-on pressure that stretches your spine, improves joint function, and helps ease tension in the muscles between the vertebrae. Since tense muscles can be an issue no matter what type of headache you experience, mobilization can be very effective.
- Massage: Massage is often included in treatment plans for headaches. The therapy loosens tight muscles, improves range of motion, increases blood flow, and may help reduce the frequency of your headaches. Regular massages also reduce stress, which can be a factor if you get tension headaches.
- Flexion-Distraction Therapy: This therapy is performed on a segmented table that moves or drops as your chiropractor gently manipulates your vertebrae. Flexion-distraction therapy reduces stiffness, improves range of motion in your back and neck, and may even help decrease the number of headaches you get every month.
Your treatment plan might include a few other types of therapy, including ice and heat therapy, ultrasound treatment, or electrotherapy. Improving your posture and strengthening the muscles that support your head and neck may also be helpful. Your chiropractor can recommend exercises, make suggestions that will help you improve your posture, and provide advice about a healthy diet.
Is Chiropractic Treatment Effective?
In a case series published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, researchers discussed the case of a 31-year-old patient whose migraines become chronic after two pregnancies. After chiropractic treatment, she experienced fewer migraines. During the 10th month, she reported no headaches during the entire month.
Another case study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care examined the case of a 44-year old woman who suffered from daily headaches that didn't respond to pain medication. During her treatment, spinal manipulation, ultrasound, and other therapies were used. After three months of treatment, her headache pain began to subside. The pain was completely eliminated by six months.
Are you tired of living with headache or migraine pain? We can help you control your symptoms naturally. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
If you have a headache, you're not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.
What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.
Research shows that spinal manipulation - the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic - may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.
A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.
Also, a 1995 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches and that those who ceased chiropractic treatment after four weeks experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in contrast with those patients who received a commonly prescribed medication.
But to get to the bottom of the problem, you first need to find out what is causing your pain. Headaches have many causes, or "triggers." These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems.
Ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern.
What Can You Do?
- If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on a sewing machine, typing or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.
- Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.
- Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) - the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull - leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.
In addition, the ACA and its Council on Nutrition suggest you avoid the following food "triggers":
- Avoid caffeine. Foods such as chocolate, coffee, sodas and cocoa contain high levels of the stimulant.
- Avoid foods with a high salt or sugar content. These foods may cause migraines, resulting in sensitivity to light, noise, or abrupt movements.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. These drinks can dehydrate you and cause headache pain.
- Other headache sufferers may want to avoid not only caffeine, but also high-protein foods, dairy products, red meat and salty foods.
What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?
Chiropractors may do one or more of the following if you suffer from a primary headache:
- Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system.
- Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet and perhaps the addition of B complex vitamins.
- Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques. This advice should help to relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.
Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to help their patients in many ways - not just back pain.
If your headache is symptomatic of a health problem that needs the care of another discipline, your doctor of chiropractic will refer you to an appropriate specialist.