As headaches are one of the most common reasons for seeking the help of a doctor, it’s safe to assume that everyone reading this has experienced the pain of a headache at one point or another. There are many types of headaches that can happen either occasionally, or on a more frequent basis – known as chronic headaches. The levels of intensity can range from a dull ache to a debilitating pain throughout the entire head. Whether they occur a few times per year, or a few times per week – the focus is to stop it as soon as possible.
Today, our first thought is to grab a medication - usually Aleve or Advil, to make it through the day. These medications can give us temporary relief from the pain, but in the bigger picture they only mask the pain until the medication wears off. Think about how often we take these medications when a headache comes on. They numb the nervous system to stop the pain, which is convenient, but they also have adverse effects on the liver and kidney. The biggest issue with these pain medications – they don’t fix or correct the cause of the headaches.
Headaches are a common complaint from the patients of Chiropractors. In the neck runs a vast array of nerves, vertebrae, blood vessels, and joints. When any of these are compromised, there is potential for a headache. These can be compromised from daily habits such as bad posture, immobility, stress and more. A chiropractor is specifically trained to address issues that can cause most types of headaches. There are several routes a chiropractor can follow to help patients cope with their headaches. Under the care of chiropractors, patients will undergo a thorough examination to determine the cause and proper treatment of the individual’s headache.
Research has shown that chiropractic adjustments are a safe and effective treatment for headaches, even if the headache isn’t occurring at the time of the visit. These adjustments are a great preventative measure for potential headaches in the future. A 2011 report published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics showed that chiropractic care helps improve the outcomes of people suffering from cervicogenic headaches – a headache that begins in the neck. Not only that, but in 2001, Duke University published an article stating that spinal manipulation resulted in almost an immediate improvement for those with headaches originating in the neck. It also offered significantly fewer adverse effects and longer lasting relief of tension-type headaches than most commonly prescribed medications. With significantly fewer side effects, we shouldn’t need much more convincing in considering alternative treatments to medication as a short and long term solution.
Treatment through chiropractic adjustments is not general – each case is different and is treated as such. The thorough evaluation allows chiropractors to determine the right course of action based upon the patient’s lifestyle. While relief sometimes occurs instantly, it can also take longer in certain cases – it could be hours, days, or weeks, dependent upon the cause of the pain. Typically, it takes longer to feel relief from chronic headaches than the dull and less frequent cases.
Headaches shouldn’t be considered normal – each one has a cause, we just need to find it. Overall health and wellness is our number one goal as chiropractors. We want to get our patients to a point where they’re in a position that prevents headaches from disrupting their daily life. Headaches are awful – no one likes them. So, here are a few tips that help ease the pain of headaches when they occur…
· Use a soft-gel ice pack. The cold pack forms to the head to help alleviate pains.
· Immediately avoid loud noises and bright lights. This is also a potential trigger, but can greatly increase the intensity of the current headache.
· Periodically, gently massage your temples and back of the neck to help ease any tension and/or discomfort.
· Stress is a major trigger for headaches and increases in pain. Removing yourself from stressful situations can allow you to find a way to cope and ultimately prevent headaches.
· Placing heat on the base of the neck will help relax the muscles running to the head, decreasing tension.