Chiropractic care for Headaches
Headaches are very common and because they happen regularly, often people refer to them as "just a normal headache". However headaches usually happen for a reason and for many people chiropractic treatment can be a very effective way of treating headaches. One of the most common types of headache that Chiropractors see is called cervicogenic headache.
Headaches can be very severe and often have a profound effect on the lives of headache sufferers. Interestingly the pain you feel when suffering from a headache does not come from the brain as the brain itself does not feel pain. This is why during brain surgery a patient can be wide awake and not feel any pain and can talk to the surgeons. The scalp itself is pain sensitive and the surgeon uses an anaesthetic to numb this area whist the surgery progresses. The pain sensitive structures are all the other parts including the blood vessels, membranes, and the nerves. If these structures are irritated and inflamed then often a headache will result. The neck has a number of nerves that travel over the skull and if these nerves are irritated they will refer pain into the head.
What is cervicogenic headache
A cervicogenic headache is caused by misalignments in the neck (the cervical spine) and can also result from an absence of mobility in the upper cervical area. The term is used to refer to headaches where the primary causative agent is the neck. Pain may radiate to the forehead (frontal region), the eyes (orbital region), the temple and the ears.
Cervicogenic Headache Causes
Generally speaking cervicogenic headaches are more common in females. The current theory is that abnormal movements and postures of the neck result in irritaion to the upper 3 cervical nerve roots. Pain referral can be from muscles, ligaments, joint capsules and discs.
Chiropractic care is thought to be very helpful for this type of headache because it can correct the source directly. It is also suggested as a helpful treatment for other types of headaches that share the same cervical element.
How will I be Assessed for Headache?
Your Back to Health Chiropractor will conduct an extensive background history as well as a thorough examination and possibly even x-rays. Your chiropractor will assess your posture and look for the underlying cause of the headaches. He or she will then usually provide a diagnosis and suggest an appropriate treatment plan. History: The pain in headaches can vary in its location, intensity, duration and type. Neck and head pain can be on one side or on both sides. The pain can be referred to the side front and top of head. The pain is caused and aggravated by abnormal neck postures and movements such as sitting at a computer or working overhead. Physical examination: Your Back to Health chiropractor will assess your posture and look for the underlying cause of the headaches which will look at all of the following factors:
- General posture and flexibility
- Palpation may reveal muscle tenderness and tightness
- Palpation to the cervicogenic muscles reproduces pain patterns
- Restricted active and passive joint range of motion particularly in the upper cervical spine (neck)
- Specific orthopedic tests to the neck
- Muscle tests to determine the extent of weakness
- Neurological assessment if required
- X-rays of the neck and or spine may be conducted depending on the extent of your problems and the examination findings.
Your chiropractor will discuss with you exactly what examinations will be appropriate and will require your consent before undertaking an examination. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed then specific treatment options can be discussed.
Your Back to Health Chiropractor will assess your posture and look for the underlying cause of the headaches which will look at all of the following factors: general posture and flexibility, galpation may reveal muscle tenderness and tightness, palpation to the cervicogenic muscles reproduces pain patterns, restricted active and passive joint range of motion particularly in the upper cervical spine (neck), specific orthopedic tests to the neck, muscle tests to determine the extent of weakness, neurological assessment if required, X-rays of the neck and or spine may be conducted depending on the extent of your problems and the examination findings. Your chiropractor will discuss with you exactly what examinations will be appropriate and will require your consent before undertaking an examination. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed then specific treatment options can be discussed.
Treatment of headaches
Your Back to Health Chiropractor will perform various adjustments and movements, usually with his or her hands. The adjustments are designed to correct identified problems and allow you to regain movement and reduce headaches and other associated pain. The Chiropractor may also provide appropriate stretches and exercises to help improve posture.
In particular the treatment will pay attention to the neck (upper cervical and sub occipital) region but it if there are other underlying areas of concern within the spine they are dealt with as well. Other treatment options include the following:
- Soft tissue therapy and trigger point massage to the affected muscle groups usually in the suboccipital region
- Ice applied to inflamed joints
- Heat to tight muscles
- Use of an appropriate pillow
- Stress management and relaxation therapy
- Posture assessment
- Work station assessment
For many years Chiropractic patients have obtained relief for their cervicogenic headaches through natural chiropractic care. Here at Back to Health we use natural techniques without the use of drugs or surgery.