What a lot of people don’t know is that chiropractic care turns out to be an efficient headache treatment for many types of headaches, including tension headaches, migraines and headaches that originate from the neck. A report from 2014 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) showed that using a chiropractor for headache relief was efficient for both acute and chronic headaches and neck pain. Another study in the same journal in 2011 showed that chiropractic intervention was an efficient treatment for migraine and cervical headache (headache coming from the neck).
Choosing a chiropractor for headaches
Headaches are one of the most common ailments in our modern society. It can vary in frequency and intensity and can be caused by many internal and external factors. Most people accept headaches as a part of everyday life. As people perform seated activities more than ever, we spend more time in fixed, unnatural positions that cause muscle tension and increase joint irritation.
Because headaches are so common, they can affect your job or social life, especially if the pain is recurring or chronic. Maybe you take a pill for it and hope for the best, or maybe you just wait until the pain subsides.
Causes of Headaches
Headaches have many different causes, also called triggers. These include, for example, environmental stimuli (light, stress, noise, etc.), nutrition and behaviour such as insomnia (insomnia) and too much exercise. 5% of all cases are caused by actual physical problems, while the remaining 85% of cases are considered primary headaches, which means that the headache itself is the primary cause and symptom. This includes tension headaches, migraine and cluster headaches. Many of these injuries are associated with tension in the neck and back.
Types of primary headaches
Tension headache – A generally widespread, mild to moderate headache. Tension headache is the most common and easiest to treat with chiropractic methods.
Migraine Headache – Causes a stabbing sensation potentially accompanied by nausea, vomiting and tremendous sensitivity to light and sound. They are paralysing and can last for hours (in some cases days).
Cluster headache – The most painful form of headache. Cluster headaches occur mainly in a cyclic pattern (‘cluster’). People who suffer from it usually wake up at night with terrible pain around one eye on one side of the head.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) offers some tips to prevent headaches:
- Take breaks when performing repetitive movements or when you are in a fixed position such as reading, typing, or sitting at the computer. Stretch every half hour or every hour and perform full movements for both your head and neck.
- Low impact exercise can potentially relieve head and neck pain when caused by primary headaches. Avoid intense exercise when you often experience a dull, stabbing headache.
- Try not to bite your teeth. This will increase pressure on your jaw joints (TBJ) and may result in tension headaches.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking a minimum of two litres of water a day prevents dehydration, which can be a major cause of headaches.
Other tips are:
- Watch your posture to prevent skewing of the neck
- Learn a coping mechanism to avoid stress and/or deal with it efficiently
- Avoid overtime and complete exhaustion
- Avoid too little or too much sleep
- Find time to relax
- Sleeping on the stomach may cause unnecessary tension in the neck. Sleeping on your side with head support so that the head is aligned with the spine, or sleeping on your back with a small pillow, can alleviate some headaches. A cervical pillow is recommended
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Too much food, drink and smoking can play a role in head and neck pain.
What can a chiropractor do in case of headaches?
Your chiropractor has been trained to identify and alleviate neuromuscular causes of your neck pain and headaches. After a special back examination, he will work out a treatment schedule, which may involve manipulation of the back in order to adjust deformed vertebrae, which may affect your nervous system. These adjustments provide immediate relief in many cases. In a study of 87 patients suffering from migraines, migraine symptoms were improved or cured in 85% of the female and 50% of the male patients. In classic headache symptoms, these numbers increased to 68% and 75% respectively.
Your chiropractor will also offer nutritional advice for headache prevention, as well as advice on posture, exercise and relaxation techniques. These activities should keep the neck and joints healthy and prevent the recurrence of symptoms.