Headaches and Management Options

Headaches are one of the more common conditions that enter the offices of primary care doctors, including chiropractors. The standard medical treatment revolves around the use of medications and/or injections. The standard chiropractic treatment approach includes manual therapies that may include spinal manipulation or adjustments, manual or mechanical cervical traction, mobilization techniques, trigger point therapy, nutritional counseling, and physical agents or modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, etc. While both approaches have their pros and cons, there are far fewer side effects associated with the chiropractic treatment option.

Headaches can generally be classified as primary or secondary. Primary Headaches include Migraine, Tension, and Cluster. Secondary headaches occur because another condition or injury is present such as after a car accident or slip and fall injury, an infection, a vascular injury—such as stroke, a medication side effect, psychiatric disorder, and/or a sinus, jaw, or dental condition.

When considering the use of complementary and alternative approaches available to patients with chronic tension-type headaches, a 2008 report revealed that 40% of 110 patients surveyed utilized some form of an alternative/complementary medical approach. The most frequently utilized was chiropractic (21.9%), followed by acupuncture (17.8%), and massage therapy (17.8%).

If you find yourself frequently utilizing over-the-counter medications such as an non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), it is probable that the chiropractic management approach will benefit your headache condition.

Frequently, in patients with headaches, the vertebrae in the upper neck lose their normal range of motion and the muscles in that region that attach to the base of the skull become overly tight and squeeze or compress the nerves that feed into the head. This results in radiating pain over the top or around the head, sometimes into the eyes. Chiropractic care can make it easier for you to move your head and neck forwards, back, rotate or twist, and side bend. This in turn reduces muscle tension and nerve pinching that may be present, which reduces headache pain.