Many people suffer from chronic headaches. Some headaches can be attributed to stress or tension, but the latest medical literature reports that some cases of chronic headache are caused by a problem in the neck and that they are often misdiagnosed or unrecognized by physicians.
These headaches are known as “cervicogenic headaches” since they have their “genesis” in the cervical spine. They arise when the nerves, joints, or muscles of the neck are injured or strained. Pain signals from the neck can get mixed with nerve pathways of the head and face, and can create pain in seemingly unrelated parts of the body.
Cervical spine dysfunction can cause pain in any part of the head, and cervicogenic headaches are usually focused on one side. These types of headaches can last up to many hours or days, and are usually described as a dull, aching pain. Neck movements, injuries, or an awkward posture can trigger these headaches. Medication may relieve pain temporarily, but if the root cause of the pain is not eliminated, the symptoms will just return down the road.
The first step in treating headache is to take a careful history and perform a thorough physical exam. This will help us determine the precise source of your pain and help us design an effective treatment plan.
Chiropractic can be a great way to treat headaches, since we work specifically with the spine to make sure that it is functioning properly. If you suffer from regular headaches, contact our office for an appointment.
WHAT CAN I DO TO EASE THE PAIN?
People often consume over-the-counter pain pills to alleviate headaches, but you may be able to help relieve pain without medication by applying some simple common-sense methods. Consider these guidelines for possible temporary relief:
- Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the affected area which may numb and help alleviate the pain.
- Apply heat to the shoulder and/or neck muscles to help relax the muscles
- Gently massage the back of the neck periodically to help reduce stress and discomfort.
- Lie down to rest in a quiet atmosphere with a rolled-up towel or small pillow supporting the neck without pushing the head forward.
- Immediately avoid bright lights and noise.
Too often individuals have become accustomed to self medication which may mask potentially dangerous conditions. Indiscriminate use and/or over-reliance on pain medications in lieu of a proper examination and diagnosis is not recommended. Early examination and diagnosis are essential to proper care and treatment.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP PREVENT HEADACHES?
- Maintain good posture to help reduce misalignments in the bones of the neck
- Seek to avoid situations of pressure and tension that can bring on a headache. If you can’t avoid pressure, try to learn to cope with it more effectively.
- Find time to take periods of rest to relax, close your eyes, breath some fresh air and even take a brisk walk.
- Avoid getting overtired to the point of exhaustion.
- Exercise regularly to stimulate the circulation of blood to the head and to maintain neuromusculo-skeletal flexibility.
- Avoid too little or to much sleep, which can be contributing factors to headaches.
- Try not to sleep on your stomach. Either sleep on your side with your head supported so that it is level with your spine, or on your back with a small pillow or rolled-up towel supporting your neck rather then your head.
- Try not to overindulge in food or drink, and don’t smoke.
- Consult your chiropractic doctor for a thorough evaluation.