Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Does My Head Hurt?

"Why does my head hurt again? I didn’t do anything, I didn’t drink too much, I didn’t hurt myself, but my head is still killing me… why?"

This is an extremely common complaint that I hear in my office. People dealing with constant headaches and not understanding why they won’t go away. Fortunately, there is always a cause of headaches and it’s not because “it’s just how I am” as many people think. There are skeletal, muscular, hormonal, nutritional and neurological causes to headaches and once we find out where the headache is coming from we can take steps to fix them.
The most common type of headache is the tension headache which is caused by muscle tightness, skeletal joint tightness or nerve irritation. These headaches are normally seen in people who are stressed out, have a demanding job or personal life, and in people who sit in an office all day. They are caused by the body being under constant stress. If the body is always under stress, physical or emotional, it usually responds by causing muscle spasms or tight spinal joints in the neck. Luckily for people who suffer from tension headaches we can quickly find the cause and fix the problem. Here’s a quick test for you to perform to find out if you suffer from tension headaches:
With your thumbs, find the base of your skull. You should feel 2 bumps on either side, now push on those bumps and then move an inch lower and push on those spots as well. If either spots are tender or give you a headache you probably suffer from tension headaches. Another way to test is by pushing on your shoulder areas, if they are very tight, painful, or cause you to get a headache then you may be suffering from tension headaches.
Another very prominent type of headache is a migraine headache. These are normally caused by lack of oxygen getting to the brain. Here’s how it works: When your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen the blood vessels expand to allow more blood flow into the brain and thus more oxygen. This is how your body reacts to a decrease in oxygen, it tries to open things up and get more oxygen to the area, it’s a normal and highly effective process. However, wrapped around those expanding blood vessels are nerves which don’t appreciate being pushed on and they react with pain. This is how you get a migraine, the blood vessels are doing their job and expanding but they’re expanding into nerves that give you a migraine. So what’s a person to do? Well the easy answer is to get more oxygen throughout the day… but how?
In the office we deal with migraines by enhancing the amount of oxygen each person takes in. This is normally done by adjustments to the thoracic spine and rib cage. These adjustments allow the lungs to expand more than they normally would, thus increasing the amount of oxygen in the system. After a few adjustment the body can start to take in more oxygen with each breath and the frequency of migraines will decrease.
Other causes of headaches and migraines are hormonal or nutritional. Both can be dealt with in a similar fashion. For some people it’s just finding out what food triggers the migraine. For hormonal migraines, such as those felt during certain times in a woman’s menstrual cycle a more advanced treatment is usually needed. These women normally need to balance out the hormones in their bodies (many menstrual migraine sufferers also suffer from fibrocystic breast disease, fibroids, endometriosis or acne, all signs of a hormonal imbalance). Luckily there is emerging evidence that diet can help to balance hormones. When we put these people on a diet filled with micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals they experience amazing results.
Doctors Note: You don’t have to live with headaches. Drugs don’t cure your headaches, they just make them manageable. But they can be fixed when we find out where they’re coming from. Everyone should be able to live pain free and if you suffer from chronic headaches there is hope.