At one time or another, everyone experiences a headache. Aside from having a headache when you’re sick, you can develop a headache for a variety of reasons, most of which are harmless and resolve on their own.

However, even a mild headache can interfere with being productive and can leave you feeling unwell. Proper headache treatment starts with understanding the cause prior to self-medicating. Read on to learn more about headaches and what you can do to stop them before they even start.

Headaches Q & A

What causes headaches?

Headaches are often described are debilitating pain and nothing helps. Traditionally both over the counter and prescription strength medication treat headaches and migraines.  These medications help dull or numb the pain, but rarely fixes that cause of the pain.  At Virginia Family Chiropractic, we find and treat the cause of the headaches.  For example, a headache can also be a symptom of a larger issue such a slipped disc. When the cervical vertebrae (spine at the neck) become misaligned it often creates headaches that can recur until proper treatment is administered to the underlying problem.

Symptoms of headaches and migraines can vary anywhere from back pain, eye tension, irritability, depression, and even slight hallucinations.  When a person is experiencing a severe headache or a migraine, they will often avoid light, loud noises, become lightheaded, and nauseous.

How are headaches diagnosed?

Headaches are diagnosed with an examination, which includes a range of motion test, orthopedic tests, muscle tests, and neurological test. The doctor will also palpate the affected area, and take X-rays based on medical necessity.  If further testing is necessary to diagnose the problem, the Dr. will then order an MRI and/or CT Scan as necessary.

How are headaches treated?

Time and time again doctors of chiropractic are changing lives.  A misalignment in the spine creates pressure on the nerves and by aligning the spine and removing the pressure, the occurrence of headaches can be minimized and stopped all together.  Just like patients go to a dentist in order to prevent cavities and ensure the optimum health of their teeth, chiropractors can do the same for your spinal nervous system.  Chiropractors do not just move “bones” but take care of the nervous system.  Why is this so important?  Because the nervous system controls everything in your entire body.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Headache?

The signs and symptoms of a headache depend on the type of headache you’re experiencing. For example, a sinus headache can cause a feeling of pressure behind your eyes with a dull ache in the forehead. A migraine headache causes throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head and may cause visual disturbances. Knowing what symptoms you’re experiencing makes it easier to diagnose what kind of headache you have.

What Are the Types of Headaches?

Some headaches come on as dull aches that slowly build up to unrelenting pounding. Other types of headaches, while not as debilitating, are recurrent and can interfere with daily living. The vast majority are classified as primary headaches, which are often associated with neck pain and muscle tension. That means that it can be relieved with chiropractic treatment, such as spinal manipulative therapy.

Migraine Headaches

Anyone who suffers from migraine headaches can tell you that they cause some of the worst pain imaginable. Caused by the constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain, migraines impact about 25 million people per year in the U.S. alone, with the vast majority of sufferers being women.

Migraine headaches can be reduced in frequency by avoiding certain triggers—poor sleeping habits, stress, sensitivity to light/odors, certain foods, changes in weather, etc. Chiropractic care has also been found to be an effective treatment for migraines.

Tension Headaches

The most common type of recurrent headache, tension headaches (aka cervicogenic headaches) are most often caused by upper back and neck pain as a result of poor posture or stress. For this reason, tension type headaches are very responsive to chiropractic treatment in the form of spinal manipulation of the upper cervical vertebrae and chiropractic adjustments to the thoracic and cervical spine. Acute tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to several days, while chronic tension headaches may persist daily for months at a time.

Cluster Headaches

A less common but extremely painful type of headache, cluster headaches, unlike migraines, affect men much more than women. While they are similar to migraine headaches in that they are caused by the constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain, cluster headaches result in localized pressure that is felt on one side of the head behind the eyes. The reason they are referred to as “cluster” headaches is because they typically occur a few times a day over several days, then disappear for months or even years.

Sinus Headaches

Allergy headaches are caused by common allergens like dust, pet dander, and pollen. Allergy headaches usually present in the sinuses and can branch down to the neck area. These may be accompanied by a stuffy nose and black circles under the eyes.

How to Prevent Headaches

Prevention begins prior to even feeling the first twinge of a headache. In some cases, you may take preventive medication, especially if you suffer from severe migraines. For other types of headaches, like those brought on by allergies or stress, it’s best to take a proactive and symptom-based approach.

If you know your headaches are brought on by stress, you can make lifestyle changes. This can include avoiding situations that cause stress, learning how to meditate, or even finding a new job.

If your headaches only happen when it’s allergy season, your physician can prescribe medication to ward off allergy-induced headaches. Also, make a point to avoid any known allergens that trigger your headaches.

Headaches happen for a lot of reasons with the majority being of a benign nature. However, if you continue to experience recurrent headaches that don’t respond to treatment, further investigation may be indicated.

Since many types of headaches are caused by upper back and neck pain, chiropractic care at Virginia Family Chiropractic may be the solution for you. At your consultation, we will evaluate the root cause of your migraine and tension headaches and determine if spinal manipulation therapy or traction therapy is right for you.

Treating Headaches with Traction Therapy

Traction is a unique form of chiropractic therapy that is distinct from other therapies like exercise, stretching, adjustments, or heating/cooling. It is a sustained stretch applied to joints that are relaxed. The intent is to change the structure of ligaments, which hold the spine locked into a unique shape for each individual.

Traction is sometimes used in surgery for a completely different purpose, and it is also sometimes used by Physical Therapists and other therapists to “decompress” injured discs. The type of traction used by Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) practitioners is very different from either of these types of traction.

CBP traction involves bending, and it sometimes utilizes combinations of different pulls to change the shape of the spine. General chiropractors, physical therapists, and medical doctors are unfamiliar with these techniques and do not offer them as treatments. This is why CBP practitioners get substantially different (and better) results.

Unfortunately, adjustments alone do NOT change the shape of the spine. This is a tough pill for any chiropractor to swallow, and many refuse to acknowledge this. After all, the founders of the profession thought that they were doing just that!

Call our Alexandria, Falls Church, Manassass, or Woodbridge offices, or book an appointment online so we can help you find a way to stop the pain.