Headache and Migraine
The common headache is just that, a pain in the head which is usually a pressure, dull ache or diffuse pain. These headaches usually come from the normal stresses of the day. Poor eating habits, chemicals, insufficient fluid intake, smoking, low blood sugar, allergies, and aggravations of life (work and people stresses) all will cause headaches. These cause stress and tension to build in the neck and shoulders producing the headache. The good news is that most of these headaches resolve spontaneously with the alleviation of the provocative agent. In other words, remove the stress, the headache goes away. Managing these common headaches is fairly simple by reducing stress, eating better, drinking water and simple over the counter aspirin or acetaminophen. Even a good night’s rest is an excellent therapy for the common headache.
Tension headache symptoms begin at the back of the head and neck causing pressure and pain in the back of the head and then either move up over the top of the head or around the sides into the temples on one or both sides of the head. Much of the time the pain is “band-like,” feeling like something is wrapped around your head. The pain can be pressure, dull ache, throbbing, or sharp in quality and range from annoying to severe enough to make you cry. Just because a headache’s pain is bad or frequent does not make it a migraine.
Migraine is not the same as recurring or chronic headache, no matter how frequent or severe. Migraines typically last 4 to 72 hours and may be moderate to severe in intensity. Migraine occurs in women three times more frequently than men. The pain from migraine is usually unilateral (on one side) but can alternate from one side to the other and back again. They are sometimes right in the front of the head (frontal) or can be in the back (occipital). Migraine is usually accompanied by an aura. An aura consists of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light), tinnitus (ringing or sounds in the ears), sensitivity to odors, or worsened by simple exertion (such as getting up out of a chair or turning your head). These auras can include one, a combination of, or all of the above and can occur before or after the onset of the migraine. One additional factor in migraine are triggers. Simple, seemingly unrelated factors can easily initiate an event. Red wine, low blood sugar from skipping meals, odors (especially perfumes), flashing or very bright lights, weather changes, lack of sleep, hormone changes, stress, and certain foods such as caffeine have all been identified as triggers for migraine. It is the reproducibility of the pain, triggers, and the presence of auras that differentiate migraine from tension or chronic headache.
Knowing the cause of headache is a major factor in determining proper treatment. It takes a trained professional to determine the cause and get to the root of the problem.
Chiropractically, there are several excellent treatments for both headaches and migraine. Since musculoskeletal conditions of the neck and shoulders is a key factor in the genesis of most headaches and migraine, chiropractic is perfectly situated to treat the pain episodes as well as long term management and correction of the condition. Manipulation of specific vertebrae and specialized muscle and trigger point treatments will address the acute episodes of pain and then work to correct the cause or triggers for recurrences. Chiropractic is the solution for many headache and migraine sufferers.