According to the latest research, 9% of men and 12% of women in the US experience at least 1-2 headache episodes per month. And more than 4% of the US population suffer from frequent headaches, defined as headaches which occur at least 180 times per year. Needless to say, headaches have become a social and economic burden in the United States, as well as other countries of the world.
The most common headaches include;
- Cervicogenic-problems within the neck
- Muscle tension – neck and upper back muscular spasms
- Post-traumatic – following head/neck trauma i.e. whiplash
- Drug induced – from analgesic overuse
Doctors of Chiropractic successfully help thousands of individuals everyday obtain safe, effective, long term relief from their headaches. This is because most headaches have spinal, muscular, or habitual component which the chiropractor has been trained to identify and treat. In fact, surveys show that 10%-25% of patients initiate Chiropractic care from the relief of headaches.
Muscle Tension Headaches
Characteristically, these headaches are generally mild to moderate in intensity and can last from hours to days. There is a constant tight or pressure sensation, generally feeling like a tight band is wrapping around the head. There is commonly pain and tightness in the area of the neck and shoulder. Pain generally starts in the base of the skull or temporal regions of the head and spreads outwards to affect other areas of the head and neck.
Chiropractors have great success treating muscle tension headaches. By utilizing spinal adjustments, therapeutic exercises and strengths, soft tissue techniques such as trigger point work and massage, and by counseling on lifestyle modification, tension headaches can become a thing of the past. Individuals should be warned that relying on analgesics to remedy tension headaches does nothing to correct the cause of the headache and generally worsens the headaches in what’s known as the ‘rebound effect’.
Migraine headaches are either categorized into either common or classical migraines.
Classical migraines differ from common migraines in that the actual headache is preceded by neurological disturbances which indicate a migraine attack is about to take place. These include alterations in the visual field, numbness or tingling of the lips or hand, problems with balance and even loss of consciousness. These neurological disturbances generally last 15 to 30 minutes and resolves before the headache begins. In some cases, these disturbances may persist for several days after the headache has resolved.
Clinical trials conducted on chiropractic’s effectiveness in the management of migraine headaches have shown remarkable improvements in many cases.
The Effect of Spinal Manipulation on Cervicogenic Headaches
In this study researchers set out to determine the effiectivness of spinal manipulation in the treatment of cervicogenic headaches (caused by disorder in the cervical spine). 53 patients were place d into one of two groups which received either,
- 1. chiropractic spinal manipulation twice a week for 3 weeks or;
- 2. deep friction massage and low-level laser treatments in the upper back and neck region tice a week for 3 weeks
After 6 weeks researchers found that those receiving the chiropractic spinal manipulation:
- 1 decreased their usage of alalgesics by 36%, compared to 0% in the no-spinal manipulation group
- 2 decreased their number of hours they experienced headaches during the day by 69%, compared with 37% in the no-spinal manipulation group
- 3 decreased their headaches intensity per episode by 36%, compared with 17% in the no-spinal manipulation group
Nilsson, DC, MD et al. JMPT 1997;20(5): 326-330.