When it comes to headaches, a proper diagnosis is essential. The question “Why do I have headaches” must be addressed. Headaches can be brought on by various factors. They can be caused by posture, weak or tense neck muscles, stress, diet, lifestyle, concussions, trauma, neurological origin, aneurysms, and more. Finding the cause allows for the right treatment to be administered.
- NECK / CERVIOGENIC
- OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA
Discussed in this section are some of the most common headaches we see at the office and their associated treatment protocols.
1) POST TRAUMATIC HEADACHES
This is usually associated with Motor Vehicle Accidents and very common, but deserve a specialized treatment approach as it is a symptom of Post-Concussion Syndrome. The brain is a very delicate organ and the sudden increase in pressure from a Whiplash Injury causes a massive sudden increase in the pressure gradient, which then squeezes the brain violently. This phenomenon is usually underappreciated, because of the still growing research on the topic. The end result though is a bruised and swollen brain, which usually throbs and can cause balance, visual, and auditory disturbances.
Soft tissue injuries require a lot of attention, rest and ice. Chiropractic Adjustments can be made, but are very gentle as the joints are already traumatized. Pressure in the joint capsules from inflammation can cause stiffness and sharp pin point pain with range of motion. This is why Massage, Ultrasound, Electrical Stimulation and various other modalities are used. It is recommended that heat is avoided. Although heat often feels great and loosens the muscles, it can be very inflammatory. This is because heat vasodilates the arteries and draws blood to the location. The therapies used at the office are designed to stretch and loosen the muscles. It is often advised that ice is used at home in between treatments as this allows the muscles to recover faster.
2) TENSION HEADACHES
By far the most common types of headaches we see at the office and treat. Often times, they are due to Stress whether that’s emotion and/or physical in nature. Tension headaches can be difficult to distinguish from migraines. Unlike some forms of migraines, tension headaches usually aren’t associated with visual disturbances, nausea or vomiting. Physical activity also does not worsen a tension headache. Upper Cross Syndrome is almost always to blame for these types of headaches.
Cervical Adjustments can have a surprisingly immediate effect and is often times followed up with Decompression, Graston Technique and various other therapies to help reduce tension. Each person is different when it comes to treatment and many times altered as the doctor gets to know which therapy is working the best for you.
3) NECK / CERVICOGENIC HEADACHES
The cause of a cervicogenic headache is often related to excessive stress to the joints in the cervical spine. A headache may result from Joint Dysfunction, Osteoarthritis, a Damaged Disc, or Whiplash movement that irritates or compresses a cervical nerve. The necks bony structures (i.e. facet joints) and its soft tissues (i.e. muscles) can contribute to the development of a cervicogenic headache.
Cervical adjustments are great for these types of headaches as they release joint pressure. Decompression, rapid release therapy, Graston technique and/or electrical muscle stimulation to help reduce tension. Therapeutic ultrasound, which is a deep heating therapy, often feels very relieving to the joints when used. Sometimes, a consult with a physiatrist (i.e. Pain Management Doctor) may be recommended to help shorten the course of treatment. A facet injection can help alleviate inflammation in the joints and help you finally get that sleep you were lacking. If symptoms of Radiculopathy are present, an MRI might be recommended to further analyze the cause of the pain.
4) TMJ HEADACHES
A study by the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine found that headaches related to TMJ disorder (TMJD) are often Misdiagnosed as tension headaches. Thirty-one percent were reported to have tension associated headaches by the research examiners. By carefully monitoring and looking at the associated symptoms, you can often times discover the true cause of the headache. Differentiating symptoms include crackling or grinding sound when you move your jaw, facial tenderness & earaches.
Our Rapid Release tool does wonders for loosen up the tight muscles and ligaments associated with this disorder. There are some great home therapy activities, which will loosen the muscles around the jaw and play a key role in prevention. Heat is recommended over ice in the morning to loosen the fascial muscles as compression of these small muscle and nerves can lead to intense pain.
5) SINUS HEADACHES
Often seasonal in nature, the key differentiating symptoms elicitation of pain when pressure is applied to the temple and cheeks. Try tilting your head forward. Did the pain get worse? If so, this could be sinus related. Sinus problems can also be caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria (i.e. candida albicans). If you are experiencing exhaustion, sweet cravings, bad breath, brain fog, joint pain, loss of sex drive, digestions problems (gas and bloating) and UTI, please consult with one of our doctors.
Allergy Medication and possibly Antibiotics can be something simple to test before more intervention is needed. Chiropractic adjustments and Massage can help drain the congestion you might be feeling. If your symptoms are determined to be related to an overgrowth of candida albicans, a strict no sugar regimen for 1 week as well as some natural cleanses might be recommended.
6) CLUSTER HEADACHES
These are a series of relatively short but Extremely Painful headaches every day for weeks or months at a time. You tend to get them at the same time each year, such as the spring or fall. Because of their seasonal nature, people often mistake cluster headaches for symptoms of allergies or business stress. The literature today is uncertain as to the exact causes them, but we do know that a nerve in your face is involved, creating intense pain around one of your eyes.
To avoid unnecessary treatment, it will be recommended that a consultation with an Eye Care Profession be scheduled. Sometimes, you just need glasses and the consult strain of your eyes to focus on computers and electronics can inflame the small muscles surrounding the eye. If your vision blurs when you relax your eyes, you’re probably just overstraining your eyes. Other treatment options include ergonomic corrections to a desk and posture correction as anterior head carriage can put 5x more pressure of the eyes. A course of treatment using our various therapies will help us narrow down the exact cause of the headache.
7) OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA
Occipital neuralgia, also known as C2 neuralgia or, rarely, Arnold’s neuralgia, is a medical condition characterized by chronic pain in the upper neck, back of the head and behind the eyes as well as diminished sensation in the affected area. These areas correspond to the locations of the lesser and greater occipital nerves. Wrapped around the greater occipital nerve is the occipital artery, which can contribute to the neuralgia. If you have a desk job or a previous injury of the neck, scar tissue can bind the occipital nerves and cause the chronic nature to this condition. Ever hear of Sciatica or Carpal Tunnel? It’s very similar in nature, but just located on the back of the head.
The goal of therapy is to loosen the inflamed muscles, which are constricting the occipital nerves. This is why cervical adjustment, decompression, rapid release therapy, graston technique and/or electrical muscle stimulation work great to help reduce tension.
A migraine can cause severe Throbbing pain or a Pulsing sensation usually on just one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Withdrawal from caffeine or consumption of foods such as chocolate, wine and cheese can trigger these headaches. The more you consume of these substances, the shorter the time becomes between intervals that your body will tolerate before symptoms flair up. Additionally, Dehydration is an often-overlooked cause to migraines, so please be sure to drink enough water throughout the day as the throbbing nature to this headache is due to a lack of oxygen to the brain. This extra blood that starts to be shunted to the brain puts extra pressure on small nerves, which can be quite debilitating.
Therapies used to treat migraines can range from Adjustments to any of our techniques that loosen the muscle around the neck such as decompression, rapid release therapy, graston technique and/or electrical muscle stimulation. Feedback from the patient is critical as it can help the doctor properly treat the condition. Be sure to try drinking 3x your normal amount of Water consumed to rule out dehydration.