Headaches are very common, there are many types and just as many causes. Because of this, a headache can be a mild irritant to one person but debilitating to another. In some rare cases, headache can be a sign of serious health problems so it’s important that headaches are evaluated quickly and carefully.
New research has proved that chiropractic treatment effectively reduces the severity and duration of many common headaches.
Headaches are often caused by factors like exertion, stress, or poor posture. The most common types of headache are tension and cervicogenic headaches.
A tension headache feels like a dull, constant ache in a band around the head – like you’re wearing a hat that’s too tight. They are often aggravated by stress. They can last for hours, days or weeks at a time and often cause fatigue and irritability.
A cervicogenic headache feels like a dull pain in one part of the head, like the temple or above one eye. In fact, the word “cervicogenic” means that although pain is felt in the head, the source of that pain is the upper neck.
To understand how chiropractic can successfully treat these headaches, it is important to understand how the central nervous system works.
The central nervous system controls the body’s actions at a subconscious level. It transmits information to and from the body’s tissues through a system of nerves which exit directly from the spinal cord.
The structures of the upper neck send and receive information through the three topmost spinal nerves. When a muscle, joint or other structure in the upper neck is injured, it reports that injury to the spinal cord through one of these nerves. The spinal cord then signals the body to respond, preventing further injury by splinting the area and drawing healing chemicals to the site of injury.
The area of the spinal cord which interprets the incoming signal also controls sensation in parts of the head. Sometimes it becomes so stimulated that it refers pain to those other areas. The body’s healing process starts with the spinal cord’s reaction, but the initial neck injury must be treated to decrease this over-stimulation and the resulting headaches.
Medical treatment of headache often relies on painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication which numbs the body’s response to pain. While this can provide some relief, such treatment often addresses only the symptoms, rather than the cause of the headache.
A study by researchers affiliated with the University of Western States in Portland, OR, found that chiropractic treatment of the upper neck is effective in reducing the severity and duration of headache. A study of 80 patients revealed that those who received chiropractic treatment reported their headache decreased significantly. The patients also reported this pain reduction lasted for nearly six months.
While chiropractors have used spinal manipulation to help patients with tension and cervicogenic headaches in the past, this is one of the first studies to prove its success. Researchers believe that chiropractic treatment is an effective and lasting solution to many types of headache.