Tag Archives: headache

Headaches – An Informative Post

There are many different types of headaches, but of all the people with headaches out there 90% of them have cervicogenic (tension) headaches.  These are headaches caused by a poorly functioning neck.  These are usually described as tightness, stiffness, or a pressure.

There are other kinds of headaches, migraines for example are periodic, severe, throbbing headaches that usually last more than a few hours, but less than a day.  They can make the sufferer sensitive to light and sound, and cause nausea even vomiting.  Migraines affect women more often than men.  Migraines are commonly heard of and talked about because of their severity, but are much more rare than cervicogenic headaches.

Billions of dollars are spent on headaches each year in the United States.  Headaches are a major cause of lost productivity and time off work.  One of the top reasons for seeking treatment, headaches are big money for drug companies, and big losses to businesses.

People can end up with a headache from stress, a car accident, whiplash, or any kind of trauma.  Headaches can occur a day or even weeks after the initial injury due to the cumulative nature of those kinds of injuries.  Many people think their headaches come on for no reason at all, but if they think back they will remember an accident, increased stress, playing to hard on the weekend, or something a few days ago.

Treatment for headaches traditionally has been over the counter analgesics and NSAIDS, and even stronger medications for more severe symptoms.  These medications can cause serious side effects, and recent studies indicate that we as a country may be over using these to the extent that thousands of people have serious complications every year from these relatively safe drugs.  Many times these pain medications do not work, and can even cause what is termed “analgesic rebound headaches.”

Chiropractic has a great success rate with treating headaches.  It has been found to be better at providing pain relief (with less side effects) and reducing frequency than medication.  Chiropractic addresses the root cause rather than just the symptoms.  When treating your headaches your chiropractor (which could be me if you’re in Utah) should be addressing 3 major things: First reducing the pain, second improving neck function overall, and third proper strengthening of the neck to reduce future risk of re-injury.  While chiropractic is particularly good at resolving cervicogenic headaches it has also been shown to be effective with some types of migraines, and other headaches.

If you are experiencing headaches, don’t reach for that Aspirin bottle.  Reach for the phone and contact your chiropractor.  You will receive better, safer relief, and have less chance of recurrence.

When Should I Go To A Chiropractor?

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The primary thing that you should see a doctor of chiropractic for instead of a medical doctor is joint dysfunction, sometimes chiropractors will call this “subluxation.” The problem is the same with either term. “What is that?” Medical doctors and chiropractors use different terms so I’ll try to list some of the more common diagnoses terms and explain why and how a DC should be preferred over an MD for those conditions.

Back pain of any kind. I say this, knowing that there are causes of back pain that a chiropractor cannot treat. They should be a first line provider when it comes to back pain. The advantage of seeing a chiropractor first for back pain is that it is their expertise. They have had more class and clinical hours studying and treating the back than the average MD. So, even if they can’t treat it, they are better equipped to diagnose and refer to the right person. They can also treat most back pain generators. Even the studies with the worst outcomes show that chiropractic is at least as good as standard medical treatments (most show better results) for low back pain with higher patient satisfaction, and lower risk. The second reason to see a chiropractor is cost.  A full treatment plan with a chiropractor will cost about the same as the initial MRI at a hospital ER.

If you’ve been in a car accident, after visiting the ER, and in the absence of life threatening findings there you should proceed to your chiropractor. The ER doctors will often say something along the lines of well we can’t find anything on our tests, it looks like you have a little (fill in the blank…whiplash, sprain/strain, pulled muscles, bruising, etc…). They will usually send you home with a prescription for some pain medication. They don’t deny the pain or the injury, they just don’t have any medication to treat these injuries. These injuries are what chiropractors deal with. Like with MDs, DCs cannot cure a sprain or a strain, but they can improve healing time, and reduce pain without the risk/side effects that medication has.

Pregnancy back and muscle aches. This statement is not intended to negate medical monitoring of a pregnancy. Chiropractors should not be substituting for an OB/Gyn if that is the care you choose. With pregnancy however most medications are out, due to possible harm to the baby. In this circumstance you want your treatments to be as conservative as possible. Again, that is a chiropractors realm, conservative care.

Headaches are one of those areas that are middle of the road. Most headaches are just tension headaches, and chiropractic has a very high success rate treating them. The problem is most people don’t go to their doctor for the average tension headache, they go for chronic headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, etc… With these I wouldn’t say one was better than the other. Because the cause of headaches vary so much you could start either place. The big advantage that I would give chiropractic in this case is that it is more conservative, and they won’t start with drugs. If you aren’t seeing some results with a chiropractor within 2 weeks I would recommend looking into other things, and for that matter the chiropractor should be looking to refer you about that time.

Difficulty moving, such as when you bend down and can’t stand back up, or you can’t turn your head properly to back up your car. Stiffness or soreness is also something to go see a chiropractor about. Basically anytime you have a mechanical problem be it muscles, bones, or joint structures head to your chiropractor.

Repetative stress injuries, whether they be work related, sports related, performance related, or what ever. RSI’s are something that I’ve discussed in depth previously. See here for the start of the discussion series.

I’m sure that I’ve missed many, and I hope that my chiropractic friends will correct me with comments to this post, but I hope this is a good starting point for those of you who are looking for a way to judge who you should go see.

A chiropractor can be a primary care provider and at times are. You should be able to go see your chiropractor for any reason, and he should be able to help you either through chiropractic treatment or by referring you on to the person who you should see. However, if there is a medical doctor around you would save time by skipping the chiropractor and going straight to the MD if you have a fever, bowel and bladder problems, you are oozing fluids, or have cancer. Those are things chiropractors don’t usually deal with.

Migraine Help

Julia Freeman

Image by: Julia Freeman

Migraines are different from your average headache.  They usually build up over 1-2 hours; you can feel them coming.  They have a throbbing type pain and are only on one side of the head.  Migraines will last several hours, but won’t usually go beyond a day or two, though late effects of the migraine can be felt for even a week after, this is recovery time.

All migraines are not equal some are thought to be caused by vascular issues thus foods or activities that affect your blood supply are often triggers.  Some are thought to be caused by abnormal brain activity or nervous function.  There is no one treatment that works on all migraines.

Migraines will go away on their own with time or sleep, but you don’t have to just accept them.  Some basic things can drastically help reduce the symptoms of migraines, even without medication. First, know your triggers, and avoid them.  Migraines are usually “brought on” by something.  Triggers are different for everyone, monitor what you do before a migraine to determine yours and avoid those things.  Food can be a trigger (such as chocolate, alcohol, MSG, cheese, sugar, citrus fruit, etc.).  Stress, hormonal changes, allergies, even exercise can be a migraine trigger.

Second, take advantage of early warning signs and intervene.  In my treatment of migraines I’ve found that patients who treat the early signs have less severe symptoms and are sometimes able to avoid the migraine all together.  Two forms of intervention care that have helped my patients are: an ice pack on the back of your neck at the base of your skull, and chiropractic manipulation.  I have seen the reduction of many migraines with these two methods, research puts the effectiveness number somewhere around 70%.  Another method that some of my patients find effective in this early stage is a hot bath.  These methods fit in with the vascular theory of migraines by balancing systems, reducing the blood flow to the head or increasing it to the rest of the body.  These are not the only options.  Find what works for you.

Lastly, sometimes you can’t stop the migraine if it’s there and unavoidable, sleep.  Sleep is the number one way of getting over a migraine. It allows your body to return to a balanced state and passes time, which is what your body needs to recover.