Headache & Migraine

Headaches are so common that almost everyone takes the odd one now and again for granted, but you may be suffering more than you can cope with. Did you know that chiropractors treat many of the causes of headaches?

Too much tension
Chiropractic may help to relieve tightness in your neck muscles due to stress and tension in your neck, shoulders and back. Treatment may:
• improve the function of the jaw – grinding teeth causes muscle tension and may be a major factor in chronic headaches
• include sensible advice on how to cut down the stress in your life

Neck injuries
Chiropractic may also be very effective in the treatment of headaches that are the result of an injury or repetitive strain to your neck (known as cervicogenic headaches). These are usually dull or aching pains, affecting the base of the skull or one or both sides of your head.

Migraine
Migraine is a severe headache, accompanied by other symptoms which may include increased sensitivity to light or sound, nausea or visual disturbances that can last for hours or even days. Problems affecting the vertebrae (the bones of your spine) in your neck may also cause headaches, and may be a contributory factor in migraine. Your chiropractor will be able to identify a loss of proper movement in the vertebrae and associated areas, and by treating them, improve their movement. This reduces stresses on the muscles, joints and nerves which may be causing the problem.

Chiropractic – not just for backs
Unlike painkilling drugs, chiropractic treats the cause of pain, not just the pain itself. Your chiropractor will carry out a full examination (including X-rays if necessary), and ask you detailed questions about your medical history and lifestyle, to discover the cause of your headaches.
Then, after you have received your diagnosis, your treatment will begin, often with gentle, specific adjustments (the chiropractic word for manipulation) done by hand, to free stiff joints, relax muscles and remove spinal nerve irritation. This effective drug-free treatment is generally painless, although you may feel some short-term discomfort if your neck is very sore.
You may also be given massage or advice on exercise and posture, and changes you can make to your lifestyle, to help prevent headaches from occurring in the future.

How could lifestyle changes help?
Stress may often be the trigger of cervicogenic headaches and muscular pain in the neck. While chiropractic often helps, better results are obtained from treatment if you change some stressful habits. There are also certain substances in food and drink, and some mineral deficiencies that may be related to headaches. Small adjustments to your lifestyle can often make major changes to the quality of your life. Your BCA chiropractor may advise you about these.

What if it’s something more serious?
If your chiropractor feels that chiropractic treatment is not appropriate for the cause of your headaches, you will be referred to your GP or to a suitable specialist.

References:
Nilsson, DC et al The effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of cervicogenic headache, J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1997; 20(5); 326-330
Boline PD; Kassak K; Bronfort G; Nelson C; Anderson AV. Spinal manipulation vs. amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic tension-type headaches: a randomized clinical trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1995; 18(3):148-54.
Nelson CF; Bronfort G; Evans R; Boline P; Goldsmith C; Anderson AV. The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1998; 21(8):511-9
Tramer MR, Moore RA, Reynolds DJ, McQuay HJ. Quantitative estimation of rare adverse events which follow a biological progression: a new model applied to chronic NSAID use. Pain. 2000 Mar;85(1-2):169-82.
Dowson A. Migraine and other headaches – your questions answered. Churchill Livingstone ISBN 0-443-07339-2