Headaches are a widespread and largely misunderstood problem. 9 out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches, ranging from occasional, mild headaches to constant, daily, full blown debilitating headaches accompanied by light sensitivity and nausea. This is an alarming rate, not only because of the quantity of people suffering, but also because when a problem becomes so common, people mistakenly and dangerously, begin to think it’s “NORMAL.”
Migraines are recurring pulsating, debilitating headaches that typically affect one side of the head. They are often accompanied by visual disturbances (like floating lights, sparkles, auras, or blind spots), nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are most common in females between the ages of 18-44. The debilitating pain of migraines can last for hours or even days.
A cervicogenic headache originates from disorders of the neck. This type of headache is often preceded by awkward neck movement or positioning (such as painting a ceiling or washing a floor). It’s usually accompanied by restricted range of motion in the neck and pain in the shoulder, neck or arm.
The tension headache is the most frequent type of headache in the general population. It usually occurs most frequently in people susceptible to the effects of stress. This headache usually starts with tightness in the neck and shoulders, then progresses to pain at the base of the skull. The forehead and temples may also ache.
Cluster headaches are relatively rare – affecting only 0.1% of the population. It typically features intense bouts of stabbing pain felt in very specific focal areas of the skull. The pain usually occurs in clusters, and it can last from minutes to hours. The discomfort typically centers around one eye, and this eye may be inflamed and watery. Nasal congestion sometimes occurs on the affected side of the face.
Headaches and Chiropractic
It is estimated that over 90% of headaches originate in the neck area. Many of the nerve centers in the upper cervical area (the first few neck bones right at the base of your skull) control blood circulation to the brain and have the ability to trigger pain. These nerves exit the spine close to the base of the skull and pass around or directly through several layers of muscle tissue. If this area of the spine is restricted or the muscles in this location are extra tight, the nerves in the scalp can get irritated.
Chiropractic care offers safe, gentle, reliable relief from headaches and can help you get to the real cause of the problem so you don’t have to rely on medications to cover up the symptoms. In fact, studies show that chiropractic care can provide almost immediate improvement and longer, lasting benefits than commonly prescribed medications.
What Can I do to Prevent Headaches?
- Maintain Good Posture to help reduce misalignments in the bones of the neck.
- Drink LOTS of water! Aim for 2 liters every day.
- Avoid Sugar! Having too much sugar in your diet can increase headaches.
- Reduce Stress! While it’s nearly impossible to avoid stress altogether, everyone can look for ways to reduce the amount of stress in their life and employ effective stress management and relaxation techniques.
- Sleep! Getting the right amount of quality sleep is crucial – not too much, not too little. See your chiropractor if you are not sleeping well.
- Don’t sleep on your stomach! Sleep in a position that allows your spine to remain in a neutral position.
- Have your spine checked regularly for misalignment/subluxations by your chiropractor – correcting misalignment before symptoms appear can save you a lot of grief.