How and Why Chiropractic Care Is Increasingly Being Used to Treat Headaches
If you suffer from severe headaches, you know that it’s not simply just a discomfort issue. Painful headaches make it impossible to think clearly, sleep properly, interact with other people and fulfill obligations. What’s more, the pain of a headache or migraine is rarely just confined to the head. Here’s a look at common symptoms tied in with headaches and migraines:
- A throbbing or pulsating sensation.
- Persistent nausea.
- Extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
- Visual disturbances, perceived flashes of light or temporary blindness.
- Tingling on one side of the body or in the extremities.
- Difficulty with speaking.
A person may have one, several or all of these symptoms. Symptoms and severity can also change from headache to headache. In addition, some people shift between symptoms throughout their lives. It can all add up to a very frustrating journey toward finding the right headache and migraine treatment.
Many people who suffer from headaches spend years trying to find effective treatments that allow them to live their lives without the constant fear that a painful, debilitating migraine is looming. Headache sufferers always feel like they are “looking over their shoulders” for that next trigger that is going to leave them in debilitating pain for a period lasting hours or days. Unfortunately, management for headache and migraine pain can leave much to be desired for people whose lives are being impacted. The problem is that care providers often don’t look at the connection between the health and function of the nervous system and the presentation of headache symptoms.
The conventional treatments for migraines include medications and trigger avoidance. While useful, this technique almost never provide true, sustainable relief for headache sufferers. This is why so many people are increasingly seeking alternative options for healing headaches and migraines to accompany their first-line treatments. In fact, new research reveals that up to 50 percent of people suffering from migraines or serious headaches are actually pursuing complementary and integrative medicine. For many patients, that means chiropractic care. You don’t necessarily have to spend the rest of your life relying on pain relievers and dark rooms to cope with headaches!
How Does Chiropractic Care Help With Migraines?
Chiropractors generally take a holistic and integrative approach when treating headaches and migraines. Chiropractic care for headaches can certainly be used in conjunction with traditional treatments using referrals and provider collaboration. However, chiropractors can also provide complete, standalone care for assessing and managing headaches using the following:
- Manual therapies.
- Soft-tissue therapies.
- Electrical stimulation.
- Identification of triggers and underlying contributors.
- Lifestyle changes.
The Goal of Chiropractic Treatment for Headaches and Migraines
While the specific therapeutic approach used when addressing each headache type differs, the goal is always the same. Chiropractors seek to reduce the frequency and duration of headaches and associated symptoms. Some patients are able to live what are essentially headache-free lives following chiropractic intervention. Reaching treatment goals may take several sessions. Here’s a look at the why and how of chiropractic care for headaches:
- Restore communication within the nervous system by restoring proper alignment.
- Correct blockages that may be responsible for tension and inflammation.
- Decrease friction or irritation in pain-signaling nerves.
- Reduce muscle and joint strain and tension
- Strengthen the muscles supporting the spine.
Ultimately, these focus points put the body in the prime position to “heal itself” from migraines by addressing the underlying issues that are creating pain and pain signals within the nervous system. Manipulations and adjustments help to restore blood flow to bring the nervous system “back to life” after years of undetected injuries or blockages. Yes, it’s possible for an unaddressed or undetected injury to be behind a chronic headache condition.
What Types of Headaches Can Chiropractic Care Treat?
Chiropractors are trained to recognize that not all headaches are the same. They are also trained to apply specific techniques for headaches originating from different areas in the body. Let’s run through the common headache types that chiropractors are able to treat.
Often caused by subluxations in the neck and upper back, tension headaches are tied to muscle spasms that go undetected. Most people who suffer from headaches suffer from tension headaches. People who sit at their desks for long periods are often at greater risk for tension headaches. Tension headaches often present as constant pain on one or both sides of the head.
Painful, debilitating migraine headaches are often caused by a process of constriction and dilation of blood vessels within the brain. This creates a cycle of increasing and decreasing blood flow that is responsible for most of the severe, vision-altering symptoms that many people suffer from when migraines strike. The pressure that occurs during the increase-decrease cycle is responsible for the “pounding” sensation that many people report.
Like migraines, the cluster headache is also tied to that same increase-decrease cycle of dilation in the blood vessels. They are called cluster headaches because they tend to occur in “batches” over a period spanning one or more days. Cluster headaches are common at night.
The Final Piece: Headache Triggers
Chiropractors often integrate lifestyle practices into treatments when addressing pain issues throughout the body. For headache sufferers, the emphasis is on identifying and avoiding triggers. While each case is unique, we have a number of common suspected triggers to look to when developing a headache-focused lifestyle plan. Here’s a look at common headache and migraine triggers that can be addressed with a chiropractor as part of a “whole body” approach to treatment:
- Specific foods and drinks that can include alcohol, additives, nitrates, cheeses, vegetables, canned goods, smoked goods, processed meats, yeast and tomato-based products.
- Hormonal changes/menstrual periods.
- Weather patterns.
- Certain medications.
- Exposure to household poisons
Your chiropractor may suggest keeping a headache journal that helps you to connect the dots between your symptoms and potential triggers. However, it is not necessary to definitively pinpoint triggers in order to enjoy the reductions in severity and frequency that often follow chiropractic adjustments and manipulations.
The Chiropractic View: Why Headaches Aren’t Just in Your Head
Chiropractic care looks at the whole body when addressing headaches of all types. Many people who seek chiropractic care are surprised to see that treatments often focus on the spine, joints and muscles even though they don’t “feel” pain in those areas. In reality, subluxations, strains and blood-flow restrictions could be bringing on headaches. Every adjustment for treating headaches is performed to address the specific origin points of a patient’s pain and discomfort. Many patients are pleasantly surprised to discover that they actually experience better comfort and mobility throughout their bodies after seeking pain specifically for headaches.
A migraine diagnosis doesn’t have to mean looking over your shoulder for that next big occurrence every day for the rest of your life. Many headache sufferers experience the freedom to live their lives by seeking integrative, holistic headache care that includes chiropractic adjustments. Speak with a chiropractor to learn how hidden issues within your body could be behind your perplexing, frustrating headaches.