Headaches and Chiropractic Care


Did you know that 9 out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches? There are many different types of headaches with a multitude of symptoms including achy, throbbing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, numbness, blinding, noise, light and/or odor sensitivity, and more. The causes of headaches can include genetics (familial traits, like migraine headaches), stress or tension (probably one of the most common), environmental (allergies, seasonal, bright sunlight, loud noises, certain foods), behavioral (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar problems, depression), and many more.


Environmental factors can “trigger” the onset of a headache. About 95% of headache sufferers have “primary headaches” such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. The other 5% may be caused by other physical conditions or problems and the headache serves as a “warning sign” that something else is wrong. The “key” in the 5% of potentially dangerous types of headaches is to pay attention to when there is a rapid onset (“…it came out of nowhere fast!”), if they are very intense, and are “different” from other headaches previously suffered. When nervous system symptoms occur that are unusual for that person, such as lapses in memory, the person is not responding, rapid onset of dizziness, balance disturbance, and/or a “blinding sharp pain,” these should trigger a warning sign that something specific and potentially dangerous may be causing the headache.


For the main 95% of headaches sufferers, neck tension is a common complaint with the headache. Research supports that spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), the primary form of care utilized by chiropractors, is an effective option for tension headaches. A 2001 Duke University study reported that SMT resulted in almost immediate improvement for participants with headaches originating in the neck with fewer side effects AND longer-lasting relief than those receiving commonly prescribed medication. Another study found that SMT was effective, not only for relieving the headache, but had a sustained benefit AFTER it was discontinued following a four-week treatment period. This was NOT seen in a similar tension-type headache group receiving prescribed medication treatment only.


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