HEADACHES

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Headaches

Being able to think clearly and calmly allows us to make decisions, process emotions, and carry on with our day-to-day lives. That clarity can be easily destroyed with an intense headache. Many people experience them occasionally, but frequent ones can affect your ability to sleep or can be disabling within your day.

Headache Triggers

Headaches have many causes or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems. The remaining 95 percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches.

The most significant majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck. Today, people engage in more sedentary activities than in the past, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture (such as sitting in front of a computer). It can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back, and scalp, causing your head to ache.

Different types of headaches

Common types are tension, migraine, and cervicogenic. Diseases do not cause these; the headache itself is the primary concern.

Tension-type headaches are commonly present as band-like tension around the head. On the one hand, migraine headaches usually result in pain on one side of the head. They are often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. With cervicogenic headaches, the source of the problem is in the neck. The pain, however, is perceived areas of the head or face. The causes of headaches are not always well understood, but a family history of headaches, neck stiffness and stress are common factors.

How can chiropractors help with headaches?

Chiropractors can assess, diagnose, and manage headaches. Current evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including manual therapy, can be effective in treating cervicogenic and tension headaches. Studies have also shown that chiropractic care can help decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines. The treatment options may include:

  • Manual therapy
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Modalities including electrical stimulation, acupuncture, and ultrasound
  • Rehabilitation
  • Lifestyle changes and education
  • Referral and co-management

Chiropractic therapy options

  • Tension headaches
    • Low-load craniocervical mobilization
      It involves a gentler force than that used in spinal manipulation. For treating headaches, this force is applied to the joints of the neck. It is allowing for the rhythmic movement of the cervical segments. Stretching is also usually part of this intervention.
  • Migraines
    • Neuromuscular massage
      • Massage with a focus on trigger points within the back, shoulder, neck, and head may ease symptoms
    • Multidisciplinary care intervention
      • This approach, which combines physical therapy exercises, relaxation techniques, stress management, and dietary counseling, is effective in reducing migraine pain, frequency, duration, and disability.
  • Cervicogenic headaches
    • Spinal manipulation
      • It is a procedure in which a healthcare provider who is trained in spinal manipulation uses their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a specific joint of your spine. You may hear a popping sound when the therapy is performed.
    • Joint mobilization
      • A type of therapy in which your joints are passively moved to improve movement or reduce pain. This treatment targets the cervical spine when used for headaches.
    • Deep neck flexion exercises
      • These exercises involve actively moving your muscles and joints under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Ultimately, the goal is to stretch the deep neck flexor muscles​ that play an essential role in supporting the neck.

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