Most of us have experienced some type of headache in the past, some are just a mild annoyance and others are completely disabling. Let's look at the different possible causes of common headaches and possible treatments.
Muscle tension headache - these headaches commonly occur at the base of the skull and may radiate around the sides of the head to the eye and extend down to the neck and shoulder region. Causes are many: including injury / trauma, poor posture such as looking down for long periods of time reading - texting - computer work - poor sleeping habits (on stomach) - etc... Improving posture and limiting postural strain on the neck are of utmost importance in treatment and prevention of this type of headache. Neck range of motion exercises are often helpful as well. Chiropractic and massage therapy have been shown to be very effective.
Cervicogenic headache - this type of headache originates from the cervical spine as the name suggests and is often due to the upper cervical vertebra being misaligned and / or fixated from proper motion. Pain occurs at the base of the skull and often has a similar "hat band" distribution like muscle tension headaches. When the upper cervical vertebra become misaligned or Subluxated / Subluxation it causes pain, muscle spasm, inflammation, reduced range of motion and nerve irritation. The occipital nerves at the back part of the skull are often affected and leads to occipital neuralgia. Chiropractic treatment is primary for this condition.
Migraine headache - this is considered a vascular headache with symptoms of severe throbbing pain in and around the eye on one or both sides, visual aura (flashes of light), nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound (photophobia, phonophobia). Some people have repeated migraine headaches that cause pain and tearing of the eyes called cluster headaches. Another form is occular migraine where there is temporary loss of vision. Treatment is often geared toward looking for chemical or food instigators such as MSG (mono-sodium glutamate), sodium nitrate / nitrite, aspartame (artificial sweeteners), aged cheese, red wine, peanut products, chocolate (sorry chocolate lovers), soy products, excessive caffeine or alcohol. Hypertension or high blood pressure and monthly hormonal cycles can be a primary factor in migraines and should be reviewed with your medical doctor. Chiropractors can help identify dietary culprits and check for any contributing muskuloskeletal factors.
TMJ - TMD - Temperomandibular joint disorder - these headaches tend to originate from the joint between the skull and the jaw or TMJ. Symptoms are similar to muscle tension and cervicogenic headaches along with pain and tenderness over the TMJ with clicking or popping on chewing. Some of these patients also tend to be teeth clenchers and grinders at night (bruxism). Treatment is often sought with Dentists and Chiropractors. Dentists can provide oral splints for night grinders. Eliminating gum chewing, taking smaller bites and avoiding clenching is helpful. Chiropractors provide manipulation and muscle work of the TMJ.
Since headaches are not due to deficiency of Advil, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aleve or other pain / anti-inflammatory medication --> medicine is often a temporary answer.
Dr. David Dirks - Dirks Chiropractic
Washington: (252) 362-0189
Greenville: (252) 751-0660