Headaches xrayDid you know that an estimated nine out of ten Americans suffer from headache pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association? Additionally, the World Health Organization states that headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system. Headaches are something that effects almost all of us at some point in our lives.

Primary Headaches

Let’s talk about the most common headache and what causes them. The most common types of headaches are known as primary headaches and are not due to an underlying disease. These headaches are usually caused by a combination of factors such as: tension in the muscles of the neck area, misalignment of the bones of the spine, and pressure on nerves or blood vessels. In some instances chemical imbalances within the body can cause them to occur. Primary headaches can also be triggered by lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption, certain foods, poor sleep, poor posture, skipped meals and stress.
According to Dr. George McClelland, a chiropractor in Virginia, “Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activates than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.” Many of our patients that suffer from headaches sit at a desk for 6 to 7 hours a day. No wonder they need to see a chiropractor on a regular basis!

Recurrent Headaches: Is it Normal?

Some headaches are occasional, some are frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.  And for many people who suffer from multiple headaches per week, they often come to feel that this is “normal.”  Let me put this into perspective for those of you with “normal” weekly headaches.  Would you agree that in the past few years drought in the Western United States has been common?  Yes.  Does that make drought a normal occurrence for that area?  Of course not!  These headaches become so “normal” that when patients come in for treatment, they may not even bring it up until initially during an examination. Chronic headaches are your body’s way of telling you something needs attention internally, and should be discussed with a chiropractor or medical doctor to identify and treat the root cause.

Migraine Headaches

A more specific, and debilitating, type of headache is the migraine. These headaches are characterized by chronic, recurrent, moderate to severe pain episodes. Typically, the migraine headache affects only half of the head, is pulsating in nature, and lasts from 2 to 72 hours. Migraine headache affect on average, in the United States, over 10% of the population according to the Migraine Research Foundation.  This means that 31.7 million people are currently suffering from migraines. Let’s just say that you are not alone when it comes to headaches.

Headache Relief

There are many ways to relieve a headache. Pain killers are usually the first resort of those suffering from a headache. I have personally seen my own family members go through bottles of painkillers in an effort to regain control. These painkillers provide temporary relief, but fail to address the muscle tension and misalignments of the spine that are placing pressure on nerves and blood vessels. Chiropractors look for the underlying cause and treat it accordingly. A chiropractor will use their specialty training to find and remove the misalignments of the spine that are putting pressure on the nerves and blood vessels (where the pain originates!). Depending on the individual’s specific presentation of symptoms and results of their diagnostic exams, other therapies may be recommended. This may include medical based massage to relieve muscle tension, dietary changes to address chemical imbalances, and exercises to strengthen the neck and upper back.
In my own experience and from studies performed, chiropractic adjustments (and complimentary modalities administered in conjunction with spinal manipulations) have been shown to decrease the frequency and severity of headaches. Keep in mind that every patient is different and there may be other underlying causes that must also be addressed. If you suffer from headaches, please have a discussion with your chiropractor to see if you are a candidate for treatment.
Adam Gingras, DC

Senara Health and Healing Center, located in Peoria, Illinois, offers a multidimensional approach to chiropractic and wellness care. Using the latest advancements in spinal and holistic health, they advance their mantra, Live Life Well, to their guests. Established as Kramer Chiropractic in 2002, the facility moved and expanded it’s services in late 2011 to Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa.