What Puts The “Ache” in the Headache?
Headaches are one of the most common health complaints; after all, almost everybody has experienced a headache in their lives. It is estimated that for about 20% of us that are under a “stress overload”, the headaches are chronic and recurrent. What causes headaches? For the most part, headaches are a result of a biochemical stress (such as caffeine withdrawal), psychological stress (such as being too self-critical) or a physical stress (like muscle tension) that the body has been unable to properly adapt to. Surprisingly, a headache is not a brain ache. The pain of sensitive structures of the head is the culprits.
Are Headaches A Normal Part of Life?
Because headaches are so common, many people believe that getting a headache is a normal part of life. Often while doing a case history and asking about headaches we hear patients say “Oh, I just get ordinary morning headaches.” Ordinary? Headaches are usually a sign that something is wrong. But what do most people do when they have a headache? They take pills. Americans spend more than $2.5 BILLION on aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen every year. These drugs, apart from their many side effects, treat the symptoms while ignoring the cause of the headache.
What Causes Headaches?
While stress, certain foods and alcohol may be culprits, a frequent overlooked cause of headaches may be culprits; a frequent and overlooked cause of headaches may be the misalignment and malfunction of spinal bones and nerves in the upper neck. What does a bone out of place have to do with headaches? When spinal nerves and associated structures are compressed, stretched or otherwise irritated, they can produce abnormal body function with headaches, a common effect of that abnormal, stress induced state. While over the counter drugs may cover up these warning signs that the body is malfunctioning, they do nothing to correct the underlying cause of the headache or the associated bodily malfunction. Neither stress nor headaches are caused by having too little aspirin in your blood.
Can Headaches Be Serious?
A headache is no stranger to most people. One estimate is that headaches occur in 9 out of 10 people. Some are mild but annoying, localized pain that may be attributed to one or more of a variety of causes. Chronic, recurring headaches, which can be the most serious, are of two major types; migraine and tension. These may be frequent and intense, and may involve the severe throbbing, nausea, irritability and sensitivity to bright light common to the migraine or “sick” headache. These headaches can be debilitating. They can affect the vision and bodily functions, bring on pain and sensation elsewhere in the body and even change moods and personality. To find relief, if only temporary, the American public pours out millions of dollars a year for headache remedies.
Is There Research Concerning Chiropractic and Headaches?
Current scientific studies are very favorable for holistic, non-pharmaceutical management of headaches. In a 2001 study at Duke University, McCrory, et al, found that chiropractic adjustments often provided immediate improvement in headache severity when compared to placebo. Furthermore, when subjects continued with follow-up chiropractic care they experienced “sustained improvement in both frequency and intensity of headache”. This study concluded that chiropractic care was a safe and effective way of providing long term relief of headaches without the use of any pharmaceutical medications. In a study conducted by Wright, et al, 87 patients with classic or common migraine were cared for with “chiropractic spinal adjustments” to treat spinal dysfunction in the cervical spine (neck). In a two year follow-up after discharge from chiropractic care, each former migraine patient was sent a in-depth headache questionnaire to which 85% responded. Wright stated that of the 87 patients, 33.33% reported no further headaches,
and over 70% of migraine suffers reported getting long term relief without depending on medications. Whether you are talking about headaches or digestive problems, sinus infections or asthma, back pain or chronic fatigue, gallbladder problems or menstrual cramps it’s all the same…chiropractic gets equally good results with all of these conditions. Why is that? Because it is not the condition that has the person we are treating. It is the person that has the condition we are caring for, and we are doing this through the nervous system.