Headaches affect many people, and can be very debilitating. Because they are so common, the majority of people believe that getting a headache is a normal part of life. However, this is not the case, it can be a sign that something is wrong. Medication may take the pain away from different types of headaches but they do not correct the actual cause. They can also bring about unwanted side effects.
Anatomy of the neck
When the bones (vertebrae) in the neck are not supporting your head adequately, this will affect the nerves, muscles and blood flow to your head. Quite often in headaches, the veins and arteries within the brain and skull are inflamed, compressed or stretched, which in turn causes pain to be experienced around the head.
Types of headaches
There are a number of different types that people frequently experience. These include:
Cluster headaches – These excruciating types of pain in the head usually occur on one side of the head only, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours. They can recur regularly, even several times per day over a certain length of time, which may be followed by a headache-free period of months or even years. One or both eyes may also experience redness and watering, and they are generally more prevalent in men than in women.
Migraines – The irritating and very painful migraine is a severe type of headache, which occurs three times as often in women than in men. Medical experts have found that genes can play a role. Studies have also shown that brain cell activity can affect blood vessel and nerve cell function which can lead to the migraine. Other triggers may include sudden changes in hormones, caused by stress, or altered eating and sleeping patterns.
Tension headaches – The most common type, they usually feel like a constant dull aching or pressure on both sides of the head or at the back of the head and neck, instead of a throbbing pain. Triggers include stress, anxiety, poor posture and jaw clenching (either while someone is asleep or awake). They can become chronic if left untreated.
Sinus headaches – True sinus headaches develop from an infection in the sinuses and are often mis-diagnosed. Typically, people think they have it when they actually have a migraine. One study even learned that 88% of individuals with a history of the sinus type probably really had migraines. While symptoms like sinus pressure, nasal congestion, and watery eyes can happen in both, migrainesoften cause nausea and light sensitivity, while the sinus type do not.
Rebound headaches – These are chronic headaches that are actually caused by medication overuse. Regularly taking any pain reliever like acetaminophen (Panadol) or ibuprofen (Nurofen) more than two times per week, or migraine drugs for more than 10 days a month for just a few months can put you at risk of developing them.
Treatment for headaches
Gentle manual therapies by the chiropractor can provide pain long-term relief. Recent evidence demonstrates that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches. Chiropractic for headaches works by releasing the areas of tension around the head, neck and jaw and re-training the spine to prevent the pain to come back. Eliminating the causes of spinal stress addresses both the muscle and nerve tension and the resulting headaches.
Advice on posture, ergonomics and sleeping positions is also advisable.