Headaches are a very common complaint of which most people at some stage will suffer from in their life. Whether the headache is sharp or dull, brief or constant, there are many different causes. At Neurohealth, a full client history is taken to determine the cause of every headache. Fortunately, very few headaches are caused by serious underlying disorders, but those that are, should be addressed immediately.
The most common types of headaches are tension or cervicogenic headaches, migraines and cluster headaches. These mostly originate from dysfunctions within the head or the neck, which can present in numerous ways. Headaches can range from dull to throbbing, sharp or constant and be located in different areas of the head neck or shoulders.
While tension type headaches are by far the most common type that we see in the chiropractic clinic, there are many other different types of headaches that can be equally if not more debilitating. Other causes include headaches from neck traumas, whiplash, jaw, sinus and vision problems, vascular disorders, infections, withdrawals or diet related.
Not only are headaches painful and debilitating to the sufferer, they have significant financial impact due to loss of productivity in the workplace. It is estimated that migraines cost between $5.6 and $17.2 billion, worldwide each year, and this does not include any form of management.
This type of reoccurring headache affects around 75% of headache sufferers. Pain can be experienced anywhere from the base of the head and shoulders to around the eyes or either side of the head. The headache is usually dull and can last anywhere from a few minutes to several days.
Tension headaches are caused by tight muscles in the head, neck or shoulders. This prolonged tension can alter the normal function of the cervical and thoracic spine. The vicious cycle between muscle tension and joint dysfunction can cause tension headaches. Chiropractic aims to improve function within the joints, release tight muscles and help restore proper mechanics to the body using specific strength exercises and stretches.
Different occupations or injuries that can cause tension headaches include; new or old whiplash injuries, poor posture from prolong sitting or computer work, or even breast-feeding your baby. Regular repetitive movements involved with particular trades eg; painters, electricians and builders, all commonly cause this type of tension headache.
Migraines are a more debilitating and intense type of headache. It is estimated that 10 -12% of the Australian population suffer from migraines which costs the country $1.5 billion each year.
While migraines have variations in their presentation, most migraines present initially with a prodrome. This can include symptoms, which present before the headache such as; loss of vision, trouble focusing, loss of sensation or pins and needles in the limbs or around the lips. These symptoms usually act as a warning sign that a migraine is imminent. Once the headache starts, it is usually one sided, very intense throbbing headache, which can cause sensitivities to lights, sounds and smells, nausea and vomiting.
Migraines sufferers can usually identify triggers that cause their headaches. These can include:
• Foods; chocolate, alcohol, aged cheeses, excess caffeine
• Hormonal; menstrual cycles, during pregnancy or taking the oral contraceptive pill
• Hereditary factors; in this case, migraines will usually present at an early age
• Physical factors; dysfunctional spinal joints especially of the upper cervical spine
It is believed that some migraines originate from the spine. Misalignments of the vertebrae can irritate the nerves supplying the neck and head causing inflammation and pain. Chiropractic treatment aims to restore movement to the dysfunctional spinal segment in order to relieve nerve pressure and alleviate the headache.
To prevent spinal dysfunctions, attention should be payed to better posture if sitting for long periods, sleeping on your back or side instead of your stomach and a good supportive contoured pillow, which will give your neck proper support while sleeping.
Cluster headaches are typically very short in duration, excruciating, usually felt on one side of the head behind the eyes. Cluster headaches tend to affect men more then women and often occur at night. They are called cluster headaches as they occur periodically, with several headaches over a short period of time followed by a period of remission of several months to even years. Like migraines, cluster headaches are likely to be related to a dilation of the blood vessels in the brain, causing a localized increase in pressure.
JAW RELATED HEADACHES
The jaw or temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) is another contributor to headaches. Any dysfunction within the TMJ can present with localised pain around the jaw or pain in the temples, neck or head. Other TMJ symptoms include clicking or grinding noises when opening or closing or even locking of the jaw. Headaches related to the TMJ can be caused by:
• Grinding, clenching
• Excessive chewing of gum
• Increased stress levels, which leads to increased muscle tension
• Joint dysfunction; arthritis, disc problems, teeth infections
The headaches described in this article are the most common types that we see as chiropractors. It is important that a full history is taken along with physical, orthopaedic and neurological testing be performed to pinpoint the cause of your headache. Further tests or external referrals are sometimes recommended to determine the cause of the headaches.
To prevent the return of your headaches and improve spinal health, here at Neurohealth Chiropractic, we also focus on specific exercises programs, daily stretches and relaxation techniques to restore optimal function to your body in the aim of keeping you headache free for longer!
If you would like more information or would like to book an appointment at Neurohealth Chiropractic – please call the clinic on 9905 9099 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the contact form from our website www.neurohealthchiro.com.au
Sign up to receive Neurohealth Chiropractic’s Free monthly health newsletter on the Right Hand Side of this page. Filled with great information and lots of easy health tips to keep you at Optimal Health!