Chiropractic Helps Headaches

By Dr. Lindsay Wilson, Whole Health Center, Lone Tree
Posted

If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Actually, 90 percent of Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.

What do you do when you suffer from a headache? Do you grit your teeth and bare it? Lie down and take a nap? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away?

There is a better alternative. It’s called chiropractic.

Research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck (according to the American Chiropractic Association).

A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, N.C., found that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication.

Headache Triggers

Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.).

Ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck.

Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture, along with doing one-sided activities for extended period of time. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.

What Can the Chiropractor Do to Help?

  • Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system.
  • Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet and perhaps the addition of supplements or vitamins.
  • Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques. This advice should help to relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.

What Can You Do?

I suggest the following:

  • Take short breaks every 20-30 minutes. If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on the couch, typing or reading, take a break and stretch a couple times an hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion, and will decrease joint stiffness.
  • Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. Engage in such activities as walking or low-impact aerobics.
  • Avoid clenching your teeth. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches. (TMJ irritation is also easily treatable by chiropractors.)
  • Drink lots of water. at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.

Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to help their patients in many ways – not just back pain. We know how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, and we can take steps to relieve those problems.