Headaches Are a Real Pain
* Every day one out of seven Americans stops or limits their activity due to a headache
* Each year 90% of all men and 95% of all women have at least one headache
* 10 million people visit the doctor each year due to headaches.
* Absenteeism and medical care for headaches costs the United States over 50 billion
* Over 40 million people suffer from chronic headaches that recur for years.
* Each year more than 4 billion dollars is spent on over-the-counter medications for
headaches, many of which are not effective in relieving the pain, but are taken because
headache sufferers don’t know what else to do!
Types of Headaches:
The two most common type of headaches are: Tension-type Headaches and Vascular Headaches. Headaches may also result from existing medical conditions and medications, such as analgesics.
About 75% to 90% of all headaches are tension-type headaches, caused by tightening of the muscles in the back of the neck and the scalp. This in turn causes fixation of the upper cervical vertebra in the upper neck, which irritates motor and sensory nerve roots emanating from these joints. This produces greater muscle tightening and vascular alterations. Tightening of the muscles and nerve irritation decreases the blood flow to the head, and irritates the pain fibers in the skin, muscles, and walls of the blood vessels. This type of headache produces a steady, constant pain on both sides of the head usually, which can last anywhere from several hours to several days, or even months. If the related joint fixations are allowed to persist, joint pathology will follow. Such conditions as disc degeneration and osteoarthritis can develop in regions of the spine where persistent joint hypo-mobility occurs.
Tension headaches can be triggered by muscle strain to the neck which in turn irritates the cervical vertebra, which in turn irritates cervical nerves causing the pain. Also, stress can tighten neck muscles initiating the same process. Other factors which can also contribute to upper neck irritations are such things as fatigue, specific foods, menstruation, depression and anxiety and medications producing rebound headaches.
Vascular headaches are caused by dilation of the blood vessels in the head, and are characterized by a throbbing or pounding pain, usually on one side of the head. The most common vascular headaches are: migraines and cluster headaches.
About 28 million people in the USA suffer from migraine headaches - 12% of the total population (6% of all males, 18% of all females). These headaches are divided into several types:
- common (without an aura;
- classic (with a preceding aura, usually visual);
- complicated (those that present with neurological symptoms)
For more than 70% of migraine sufferers the tendency to have migraines is hereditary. Migraines often begin during adolescence, but occur most frequently in adults between the ages of 35 and 45. These pains are characterized by:
-a throbbing or pounding on one side of the head
-extreme sensitivity to light and noise
-dizziness or lightheadedness.
Pains are usually aggravated by activity. 20% of migraine sufferers experience a visual disturbance (aura) at onset of the headache, usually 20 to 60 minutes before the headache starts.
Relieving Migraine Headaches
Spinal manipulations are proving to be quite helpful for may suffers. It is believed that nerve tissue located at the level of the top two vertebrae in the neck, called the superior cervical sympathetic ganglion (SCSG), can become physically irritated when these joints become subluxated, narrowing the foramen magnum to put pressure on the postganglionic sympathetic nerves, causing those nerves to fire abnormally. This causes a sequence of events beginning with vasoconstriction of blood vessels in the head and dilation of the pupils. The resultant hypoxia of the vascular system causes acid build up and the release of substance P, bradykinins and histamine causing rebound vasodilation and increased capillary permeability, flooding the head with blood causing the headache.
If these joints are left fixated and subluxated, the migraine suffer finds a high level of susceptibility and reactivity to numerous stimuli such as: diet, skipping meals, alcohol, stress, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, bright lights, television, loud noise, menstruation, environmental changes, weather changes, strong emotional states, such as depression, anxiety or excitement.
Over 1 million people in the USA suffer from cluster headaches. Around 90% are male, and most are between the ages of 20 and 30. The name cluster is used because they occur in groups, up to 4 times a day. These are the most painful type of headaches. The pain is felt on one side of the head, usually behind the eye. During the headache the eye becomes watery and inflamed, and the pupil will contract. The nose may become congested on the same side of the head as the pain. They can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 or 2 hours and will occur for a few weeks or months at a time and then go into remission for months or even years.
Known triggers for cluster headaches include: smoking, alcohol, histamines, nitroglycerin. Cluster headache sufferers should always be evaluated for upper cervical spinal mechanical dysfunction in a similar way migraine suffers are. Similar nerve irritations may be the underlying cause.
Medical conditions which cause headaches could include such things as flu, fever, infections, internal bleeding, tumors, sinusitis, allergies, arthritis, or head injury.
How to In-Effectively Treat Headaches!
Modern medicine has failed miserably in effectively treating headache sufferers. Yet, pharmaceutical companies receive over 4 billion dollars annually from over-the-counter medications which are quite ineffective and often are a major cause of the problem with rebound headaches. The drug approach would include such medications as: OTC analgesics (pain relievers), Prescription analgesics, Vasoconstrictors, Beta blockers, Calcium channel blockers, Antidepressants, and Muscle relaxants. These medications often do very little for the headache and produce a vast array of side effects such as:
Nausea -Bloating -Skin Discoloration
Dizziness -Drowsiness -Depression
Lightheadedness -Gastric Irritation -Fever
Rebound Headache -Ulcers -Sore Throat
Anxiety -Circulatory Problems -Stomach Pains
Confusion -Changes in Blood Pressure -Loss of Balance
Excitement -Sensitivity to Cold -Fainting
Restlessness -Numbness -Difficulty Speaking
Insomia -Blurred Vision -High Blood Pressure
Slurred Speech -Difficulty Breathing -Weight Gain
Addiction -Hallucinations -Dry Mouth
Although medications can relieve some of the headache problems above, they do very little to eliminate the underlying cause, as they simply treat the symptoms. Unfortunately these medications can cause great harm and addictions with prolonged use. They are not the answer to most headache problems.
How to Effectively Treat the Cause of the Problem
Doctors of Chiropractic have always had good success in treating headaches, especially tension headaches. Our facility in Cedar City has successfully treated many thousands of headache sufferers with a very high success rate. The difference is in treating the actual cause of the problem, not only treating the symptoms.
Recurrent stress headaches have at the core of their cause, fixated cervical and upper thoracic vertebra, spinal joints which are not moving properly. Because of their aberrant and abnormally limited bio-mechanical movements, they produce vertebral joint pains and nerve irritations. These nerves travel up into the head, causing muscular and vascular disturbance. This is the actual cause of the problem, which needs the specialized care of a Doctor of Chiropractic, such as Cedar City Chiropractic, who is trained to rehabilitate these joints to work normally. As this rehabilitative process proceeds, joints within the neck and upper back begin to once again work normally. Full range of motion is reestablished and muscle balance and pliability are restored, thus relieving the abnormal irritating mechanical forces and eliminating the cause of the problem.
If you or a loved one experiences frequent head pains, or have been taking OTC analgesics on a regular basis, we advise you to consult with a Doctor or Chiropractics before additional complications arise. Treat the cause, not the symptom!
At Cedar City Chiropractic and Rehabilitation, Doctor M. Curtis Hobson has the solution to more than just your back. With professional, on-hand dietitians, health coaches, massage therapist, we can focus on your overall health and wellness that will allow you to run FASTER, jump HIGHER, recover QUICKER, and will ultimately achieve your greatest wellness goals. At Cedar City Chiropractic and Rehab... We have MORE than just your back!