Headaches & Migraine
Did you know that after back and neck pain headaches are the most common condition that patients present to chiropractors with. The lifetime prevalence of headaches in the UK general population is over 96% (1) and about 46% of people are troubled by headaches in any one year with a higher incidence in the female population (2).
What Causes Headaches?
Headaches can be very debilitating and there causes are many and varied. They are often multifactorial in nature with contributors including high stress or anxiety levels, side effects from some medications, sinus congestion, hormonal imbalances or commonly the joints in the uppermost part of the neck with tension in the surrounding muscles. There are two distinct categories of headaches and these are primary and secondary. The former is by far the most common and it is where there are no underlying medical conditions contributing to the pain. Where as secondary headaches are very rare and are due to another health problem such as a head injury or high blood pressure.
The nature and location of primary headache symptoms can vary dramatically but may include a dull ache at the base of the skull, over the top of the head, behind one or both eyes or across the forehead, other common presentations are a feeling of a tight band around the head or a throbbing sensation. The most debilitating primary headache is the migraine, this affects 6 million people in the UK, and it causes significant disability with over 100 000 people absent from work or school every working day (3). The World Health Organisation ranks migraine in its top 20 disabling conditions for females aged 15–44 years (4). Other common types of primary headaches include cervicogenic, cluster and tension.
Chiropractic Treatment of Headaches
One of the most important things is a thorough case history which will help us identify what type or types of headache you are presenting with and this will in turn aid us in formulating and implementing the best personalised treatment plan for your headache. Our chiropractors treat headaches using a package of care that may include gentle specific adjustments to the joints in the neck known as spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) this increases the available movement at the joint, relaxes down the surrounding muscles and reduces the local irritation to the nerves, deep tissue work (massage, myofascial release techniques, trigger point therapy and cross friction) to ease out the fibrous adhesions (knots)in the surrounding musculature. Most importantly home rehabilitation , postural and ergonomic advice to address any imbalances and possible attributing factors will be provided to you by your chiropractor.
1. Boardman H, Thomas E, Croft PR, Millson DS. Epidemiology of headache in an English district. Cephalalgia. 2003;23(2):129–137. [PubMed]
2. Stovner LJ, Hagen K, Jensen R, et al. The global burden of headache: a documentation of headache prevalence and disability worldwide. Cephalalgia. 2007;27(3):193–210. [PubMed]
3. Steiner T, Scher AI, Stewart WF, et al. The prevalence and disability burden of adult migraine in England and their relationships to age, gender and ethnicity. Cephalalgia. 2003;23(7):519–527. [PubMed]
4. World Health Organisation. The World Health Report 2001. Mental health: new understanding, new hope. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2001.