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More Information on Headaches

  1. Introduction to Headaches

    Headaches are an incredibly common occurrence for the majority of us and according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), 90% of all people will experience at least one headache in the next year alone. Luckily for us, of that 90% only 1% of all headaches experienced will be emergency-related (from stroke, hemorrhage, aneurysm, etc.). In this article we’ll be discussing the top four headaches, which comprise 95% of all headaches, but before we do there’s an important point we’d like to make: headaches are a nuisance, no one would disagree with that statement, but they are also a signal from our bodies communicating vital information; taking the opportunity to assess why the body is sending us this signal is important in breaking the cycle of treating the symptoms of a headache rather than the root cause. There is no fault in wanting to get out of pain and in taking medication from time-to-time, but taking medications on a regular basis for symptoms which pop up frequently is ignoring the vital message sent from our bodies and, at the very least, keeping us in a state of living our lives around pain rather than omitting the pain from our lives altogether.

    Headaches are as unique as you or I and come in many shapes and sizes. The four most common headaches people experience are:

    • Tension Headache
    • Migraine Headache
    • Cluster Headache
    • Sinus Headache
  2. What can Chiropractic do for Headaches?
    • Better alignment of the spine, which translates to better posture, balance, muscle tone, and less pain—helping those with headaches and TMJ, among many other conditions
    • Decisions surrounding food and nutrition—knowing which foods to take in and which foods contribute to headaches and pain is important in addressing the cause of your headaches
    • Stretches and exercises to build weaker muscles, improve posture, balance, and muscle tone, and decrease pain—a sedentary lifestyle lacking motion is a primary cause of pain and headaches
    • A more ideal ergonomic blueprint for your workstation, helping to put you in a position that will help you avoid pain and headaches
    • Stress management—a factor present to all four of the most common headaches people typically suffer from
    • What can Chiropractic do for you? Schedule an appointment with Axis Chiropractic + Wellness today and find out for yourself!
  3. Tension Headache

    Tension Headache Affected Region
    Symptoms

    • Band-like pain that starts at the base of the skull and wraps its way around the head—this headache is related to increased tension in the muscles in the shoulder, neck, and head
    • The pain is typically worse at the end of the day and can occur daily, as this headache is related to daily stresses which can be inflicted on us with great regularity
    • Tension Headaches comprise 90% of all headaches

    Causes

    • The most common cause of tension headache is stress from lack of movement, keeping yourself in a position of poor posture for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis (e.g. poor office ergonomics)
    • Tension headaches can also be related to a stressful emotional or physical event and to TMJ/TMJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) from gritting your teeth or pressure in the joint from joint misalignment in the temporomandibular joint (jaw)

    Medication-Free Therapies

    • Chiropractic is very effective for patients with Tension Headaches and many other headaches for that matter, as it aids in relieving tension in the neck, shoulders, and head which is often a main contributor to headaches; chiropractic is also ideal for treating the effects of TMJ as this is often due to joint misalignment (subluxation) and tight muscles in the jaw region
    • Better ergonomics and posture is crucial if your work environment is the culprit for your headaches; consider using a palates’ ball at your work station to improve posture and strengthen core muscles
    • Stretches and exercises for the neck, shoulders, and head can improve posture and decrease pain from tension and other headaches, since prolonged immobility is a big factor in muscle tightness and spasm
    • Other holistic therapies, such as massage and acupuncture, has been proven effective in relieving tension in the neck and shoulders associated with tension headaches as well
  4. Migraine Headache

    Symptoms

    • Migraines are typically on one side of the head, but can be on both sides—the pain is pulsating or throbbing in nature and can lead to: nausea and vomiting, a desire to avoid lights or loud sounds, malaise, and visual disturbances
    • In the majority of cases there is increased muscle tension present in the shoulders, neck, and base of the skull which contribute to the symptoms and manifestation of pain

    Causes

    • There is a genetic connection with migraines; however, environmental factors are often the triggers for migraine headaches
    • Certain foods may trigger migraines, such as: caffeine, MSG, aspartame, alcohol, processed meats, and many more…
    • Environmental factors and emotional factors can play a role as well, such as exhaust from cars, smoke, perfumes, and stress or stressful events in our lives

    Medication-Free Therapies

    • Discovering the foods, chemicals, stresses and other factors which trigger migraines is vital; note what you were doing or what environmental factors were at play 24 hours prior to having a migraine
    • Developing a pattern for when you experience migraines is key to limiting their occurrence
    • Cayenne pepper has been proven effective in limiting pain associated with migraines because it releases endorphins in the brain, natural pain-killers
    • Chiropractic care for the release of tight muscles and muscle spasm, as well as putting the vertebra back into position of ideal alignment can have beneficial effects on migraine sufferers
    • As a side note, it was once believed that migraines were caused by changes to bloodflow in the body (vascular changes), but it is now believed that migraines are caused by neurological changes or changes within the brain itself—which is why many medications used to treat migraines for years were, in some cases, actually causing headaches and other symptoms with continued patient use
  • Cluster Headache


    Symptoms

    • Non-throbbing pain which is located around the eye region, leading to tearing and sinus drainage, and often waking the sufferer at night
    • These headaches occur several days in a row, lasting for minutes to hours, for up to a few weeks to a few months; then they go away for a period of time only to reemerge at a later date (episodic pain)

    Causes

    • Most common causes are alcohol and vasodilating drugs (drugs that cause arteries to expand, like nitroglycerine)
    • Other causes include: cigarette smoke and nicotine, hydrocarbon exposure (e.g. perfumes, exhaust from cars, etc.), sleep or lack of sleep, dehydration and (of course) stress

    Medication-Free Therapies

    • Avoiding alcohol and certain drugs which may be triggering these headaches; avoidance of environmental triggers (smoke, perfumes, etc.); and stress management
    • Drinking plenty of water—dehydration can have a significant effect on cluster headaches
    • Oxygen therapy, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been proven effective for cluster headaches—even aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease duration and intensity of cluster headaches because it increases oxygen saturation in the body
    • Tension in the neck, shoulders, and head is often present with cluster headaches and chiropractic care can help relieve some of the symptoms associated with cluster headaches
  • Sinus Headache

    Sinus Headache Pattern

    Sinus Headache

    • Achy or dull pain that is caused by pressure over the sinus regions in the face—often affecting one side worse than the other
    • There may be accompanying sinus drainage with headache and the possibility of fever if the sinus headache is related to infection

    Causes

    • Common causes can be indoor or outdoor inhalants. Outdoor triggers include: pollen, ragweed, and exhaust; indoor factors include: smoke, dust, chemicals, mold, and other contaminants from concentrated air recycled through ventilation systems
    • Allergens can also expand to foods, leading to sinus headaches and sinusitis—such as dairy products and any refined food (especially refined sugar as it feeds bacteria and fungus and weakens the immune system)
    • Sinus headaches can also be illness-related, as in the case of sinus infections or sinusitis (from viral, bacterial, or fungal invaders)

    Medication-Free Therapies

    • Increasing water consumption (especially hot water) is an excellent way to get the sinuses clear and mucus flowing out of the sinus region (water has natural expectorant properties)
    • Also consider using a Neti pot to clear the nasal passages decreasing congestion and the effects of allergens and other nasal irritants
    • If your headaches are due to indoor irritants, consider opening a window to circulate the air, clean your house or work-station on a regular basis, and/or consider getting a HEPA filter to remove allergens from the air (ionic filters produce ozone as a byproduct and can irritant the lungs, so HEPA is the preferred air purification system). Dust covers for your bedding and air ventilation filters are effective means to improve air quality and limit exposure to many triggers
    • For outdoor allergens, consider taking a broad-spectrum antioxidant, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding common allergenic foods (dairy, wheat, corn, and soy are among the most common allergenic foods) which may be placing an increased burden on your body’s ability to handle allergy season
    • There are many in the alternative health community who tout cleanses (especially liver cleanses) as the only way to truly beat the effects of allergies and environmental irritants, but if you choose to go this route please make sure you are under the supervision of a qualified health professional
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