Headaches & Chiropractic
Headache is a common experience in adults, with more than 10 million people in the UK getting headaches regularly, making them one of the most common health complaints. However, most aren’t serious and are easily treated. Recurring headaches can have a negative effect on family life, social activity, and work ability. Accurate diagnosis is key to management and treatment.
There are two types of headache:
- Primary headaches: when there is no underlying health problem. The most common primary headache disorders are tension-type headache and migraine.
- Secondary headaches: when there is an underlying disorder and include headaches associated with medication overuse, giant cell arteritis, raised intracranial pressure and infection.
Tension headache is thought to be the most common headache. It is usually associated with stress, high alcohol consumption, poor sleep, depression and dehydration. This headache feels like a dull ache with constant band-like pressure around the front, top and sides of the head.
Migraine is a common disabling primary headache disorder. It is characterised by severe pounding pain on top or behind the eye. It can be associated with nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sounds, changes in appetite, mood and libido.
Most people treat their migraines successfully with over-the-counter medication or stronger migraine-specific medication that is only available on prescription.
There is some research evidence which supports the effectiveness of manipulation/ mobilisation and nutritional therapy in treating migraine.
Medication overuse headache is found in patients that suffer from daily headaches and becomes increasingly unresponsive to pain killers. Patients will also notice worsening of the headache symptoms if the medications are missed or delayed.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction affects the joint between the base of the skull and the lower jaw and muscles of mastication.
Headaches are one of the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMDs). TMDs affect the joint between the lower jaw and the base of the skull.
Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis). Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a condition in which medium and large arteries, usually in the head and neck, become inflamed. It usually affects adults over 60 years old.
Giant cell arteritis should be regarded as a medical emergency and you should contact your GP immediately if you suddenly develop:
- a severe headache
- jaw pain when eating
- blurred or double vision
- a sore scalp
What would a chiropractor do to help?
Headache sufferers are turning to the natural, drugless, chiropractic and massage approach to health. Treatment modalities typically used by chiropractors include spinal manipulation, mobilisation, massage, advanced soft tissue therapies such as trigger point therapy, and strengthening and stretching exercises. A spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustment is designed to improve spinal function, alleviate the tension on the joints of the neck and improve the range of motion. Your chiropractor will also offer you 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?
- If you spend a lot of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on a sewing machine, typing or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.
- Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.
- Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), which irritate and can cause tension headaches.
- Drink at least eight 8 glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.
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