Chiropractic Health & Wellness Blog

Headaches helped by Chiropractic

January 3, 2010
Most people with headaches treat themselves with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and naproxen (Aleve). If these fail to provide more than short-term relief (which they often do), other supportive treatments are available. It is important to remember that OTC medications may have side effects and potential interactions with prescription medications. This can lead to a whole host of problems and emphasizes the value of alternatives to drugs. Here are some of the most important (and effective) nonpharmaceutical options for dealing with headaches:


A Minneapolis Chiropractor:  I have never seen a headache patient who did not have some type of misalignment of the bones of the neck (cervical spine). It is amazing how much muscle spasm and tension can be caused by misaligned bones. When bones are even slightly out of alignment, the muscles attached to them become stressed, so they become tight. Tight muscles restrict the flow of information through the nerves and circulation through the blood vessels. This can contribute to all sorts of problems, including headaches and neck pain.

Having your chiropractor adjust those spinal bones back into their normal alignment will reset your system. The joints will have better movement, the muscles can begin to relax on their own and the circulation and nervous systems can start to flow again. The spine and the bones of the extremities really do hold the key to feeling good for the long term.

Massage Therapy: A good therapeutic massage by a certified massage therapist can relax muscle tissue, improve circulation, and clear out the toxins that are trying to drain (lymphatic system). It is astonishing how much muscle tension accompanies any type of headache in the body. The muscles of the neck and upper back are among the most powerful in the body. After all, they have to hold up the head, which can weigh as much as a bowling ball.

When chiropractic and massage work together, patients will respond especially well to care. Consider having chiropractic and massage treatments within 36 hours of each other. This way, the adjustments and the muscle relaxation can work together.

Ergonomics:  Daily habits and body positions are extremely important when it comes to preventing headaches. For example, for many people, headaches start with something as simple as their pillow. In general, sleeping on your back is best with a pillow under your neck and head. If you are going to sleep on your side, the pillow needs to be wide enough to span the distance between your shoulders and neck. Custom-made pillows are now available to help give you the proper support you need. Ask your chiropractor for guidance in this area to help ensure you get the pillow that's best for you.

Your computer desk or workstation and telephone setup also need to be examined. Improper keyboard and monitor placement can cause eye strain and make you crane your neck for hours on end. A chair that is not adjusted properly or fit to your body type can stress the entire body, including the neck. All of these factors can contribute to headaches.

Exercise: Performed correctly, specific exercises can help strengthen upper back and neck muscles and improve posture, which will reduce the risk of muscle tension and poor-posture-related dysfunction that can contribute to headaches. Exercise also reduces emotional stress, which often goes hand in hand with a headache. Remember, make sure that the exercises you are performing do not strain any of your neck and upper back muscles. Consult with your doctor about the exercises you are doing to make sure they are not stressing your body too much and creating further problems.

Which Type(s) of Headache Do You Get?

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and yet their causes aren't well-understood. A tension headache is generally a diffuse, mild to moderate pain that many people describe as feeling as if there's a tight band around their head. As many as 90 percent of adults will suffer one or more tension headaches. Tension headaches are more common among women than men.
Migraine headaches - are the second most common type of headache. An estimated 28 million people in the United States (about 12 percent of the population) will experience migraine headaches at some point in their life. Migraine headaches affect children as well as adults. Before puberty, boys and girls are affected equally by migraine headaches, but after puberty, more females than males are affected. An estimated 6 percent of men and up to 18 percent of women will experience a migraine headache during their lifetime.

Cluster headaches are so named because the attacks come in groups. The pain arrives with little, if any, warning, and has been described as the most severe and intense of any headache type. It generally lasts from 30-45 minutes, although it might persist for several hours before disappearing. Unfortunately, the pain can recur later in the day. Most sufferers experience one to four headaches a day during a cluster period.

Cluster headaches frequently surface during the morning or late at night; the cluster cycle can last weeks or months and then can disappear for months or years. It is estimated that less than 1 percent of the population are victims of cluster headaches. More men (about five to one) than women suffer from cluster headaches.
There is no doubt that headaches of all types affect quality of life. Some people have occasional headaches that resolve quickly, while others are debilitated. Tension, migraine, and cluster headaches are not life-threatening. However, due to the quality and intensity of the pain, people often have trouble concentrating, and their work and home life suffer. In many cases, you hear of people having to go to sleep in order to make the headache disappear, which can be difficult to do when you're in pain.

What You Can Do to Get Rid of Headaches?

Most people with headaches treat themselves with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as asprin (Motrin, Advil), (Tylenol) and  (Aleve). If these fail to provide more than short-term relief (which they often do), other supportive treatments are available. It is important to remember that OTC medications may have side effects and potential interactions with prescription medications. This can lead to a whole host of problems and emphasizes the value of alternatives to drugs.

Here are some of the most important (and effective) nonpharmaceutical options for dealing with headaches:

Chiropractic: I have never seen a headache patient who did not have some type of misalignment of the bones of the neck (cervical spine) which can cause neck pain and headaches. It is amazing how much muscle spasm and tension can be caused by misaligned bones. When bones are even slightly out of alignment, the muscles attached to them become stressed, so they become tight. Tight muscles restrict the flow of information through the nerves and circulation through the blood vessels. This can contribute to all sorts of problems, including headaches and neck pain.

Having your chiropractor adjust those spinal bones back into their normal alignment will reset your system. The joints will have better movement, the muscles can begin to relax on their own and the circulation and nervous systems can start to flow again. The spine and the bones of the extremities really do hold the key to feeling good for the long term.

Massage Therapy: A good therapeutic massage by a certified massage therapist can relax muscle tissue, improve circulation, and clear out the toxins that are trying to drain (lymphatic system). It is astonishing how much muscle tension accompanies any type of headache in the body. The muscles of the neck and upper back are among the most powerful in the body. After all, they have to hold up the head, which can weigh as much as a bowling ball.

When chiropractic and massage work together, patients will respond especially well to care. I suggest to my patients that they should have their massage and chiropractic treatments within 36 hours of each other. This way, the adjustments and the muscle relaxation can work together.

Ergonomics: Daily habits and body positions are extremely important when it comes to preventing headaches. For example, I have found that for many people, headaches start with something as simple as their pillow. In general, sleeping on your back is best with a pillow under your neck and head. If you are going to sleep on your side, the pillow needs to be wide enough to span the distance between your shoulders and neck. Custom-made pillows are now available to help give you the proper support you need. Ask your chiropractor for guidance in this area to help ensure you get the pillow that's best for you.

Your computer desk or workstation and telephone setup also need to be examined. Improper keyboard and monitor placement can cause eye strain and make you crane your neck for hours on end. A chair that is not adjusted properly or fit to your body type can stress the entire body, including the neck. All of these factors can contribute to headaches.

Exercise: Performed correctly, specific exercises can help strengthen upper back and neck muscles and improve posture, which will reduce the risk of muscle tension and poor-posture-related dysfunction that can contribute to headaches. Exercise also reduces emotional stress, which often goes hand in hand with a headache. Remember, make sure that the exercises you are performing do not strain any of your neck and upper back muscles. I often recommend my patients who are starting a fitness routine for the first time to consult with a personal trainer or physical therapist for at least 3-5 sessions to learn the proper techniques for exercises. For those of you already exercising, consult with your doctor about the exercises you are doing to make sure they are not stressing your body too much and creating further problems. Call your local Minneapolis chiropractor.

LYN LAKE CHIROPRACTIC
2937 LYNDALE AVENUE SOUTH
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA 55408 
612.879.8000 

www.lynlakechiropractic.com

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