Relief for Chronic Headache and Migraine Patients
By Dr. George Bobbitt
Headache/Migraines are a very common and sometimes debilitating condition. Headaches of all types ranging from tension to migraine are one of the more common conditions treated successfully at our office.
We find that about 80% of all headaches stem from mechanical problems in the neck, shoulders and jaw. These mechanical problems result in three factors that will trigger a headache or migraine. They include nerve tissue irritation, increased muscle tension in the muscles at the base of the skull and inflammation.
In some more difficult cases, nutritional support to balance hormones or correct a deficiency or toxicity can also play an important role. Our techniques and procedures have proven very effective at treating these conditions.
How Does Chiropractic Work For Headaches/Migraines?
Migraines and chronic headaches are one of the most common complaints that we see at our office. Although there are many causes of headaches/migraines, we have found that many different types of headaches originate from mechanical problems in the neck, shoulders and jaw. Headaches such as migraine and cluster headaches can also be related to vascular problems. Symptoms can include nausea and/or vomiting and can be very disabling and require rest in a dark, quiet place.
Other headaches can be classed as "tension" headaches. These usually result from tightness in the muscles in the neck and upper back caused from stress, work, lack of sleep, sinusitis, trauma such as whiplash, and others. Pain can be felt in the upper neck or the back of the head as well as in the frontal, sinus region, top or sides of the head. It can vary from a throbbing pain to an ache to just a constant pain.
So "how does chiropractic work? "To answer this, let’s first discuss what we do when the headache patient comes in. First, we do a very extensive history. Here, we’ll ask how and when did the headaches/migraines start. This may give us a clue as to the actual cause of headaches such as a car accident or some form of injury.
Next, we’ll ask what makes them better or worse, which gives us ideas of how we might help better manage third condition. For example, when certain activities precipitate the onset of a headache, we will modify the workstation and/or give specific exercises on a regular schedule to keep the neck tension under control. When information gathered about what decreases or helps the neck pain and headaches, we will recommend treatments often that can be done at home such as a home traction unit.
This would be suggested if we are told that "…pulling on my neck feels great!" The quality of pain (throbbing = vascular, ache and tightness = neck), intensity of pain (0-10 pain scale), and timing (worse in the morning vs. evening) help us track change after treatment is rendered, usually gathered once a month.
What most people don’t know is that mechanical dysfunction of the vertebrae of the neck will cause increased muscle tension as well as irritate the delicate nerves that control blood flow into the head. Improving the movement or alignment of the bones in the neck can relieve the pressure and irritation that results in headaches/migraine.
How do we get misalignments or dysfunction in the joints of the neck? This can be due to trauma such as falls or car accidents. Repetitive stress such as hours of work on a computer, poor posture or stress can also take a toll over time. In many patients it is a combination of activities that took place often many years before which has led to chronic and recurring headaches.
The examination procedure discloses these issues as well as attempts to rule out other more serious causes. Our examination process is extremely thorough as we will do a variety of neuromuscular studies. These studies will involve nerve studies, muscle strength studies, sensory checks, spine alignment evaluations, postural balance checks, radiographic analysis and many more studies.
We also evaluate the jaw or TMJ for involvement.
If we can find the source for the headache/migraine, there is a great chance to fix and or reduce this condition, so that a person no longer has to suffer.
Treatment approaches can include:
- Soft tissue therapy (trigger point therapy, massage therapy, myofascial release);
- Posture correction exercises and other exercises;
- Education about job/home modifications;
- Nutritional/Purification therapy;
- Co-management with other health care providers