A fact sheet on headaches – and how chiropractic care can help

The vast majority of us get headaches periodically but for some, that pounding, throbbing, and piercing pain in the skull can be a severe and common malady. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 90% of the population get at least an occasional headache. The toll headaches can take on work, finances, health, happiness, and relationships is severe, with more than 250 million work days lost each year due to headaches, costing us $25 billion annually.

What causes headaches?

There are many common stressers and triggers that may exacerbate headaches, but at its root, headaches are the body’s way of sounding an alarm that something isn’t right, or out of alignment.

It could be something as small as drinking too much alcohol, overeating, or lack of sleep that causes headaches. Eye strain, bad posture (especially with ‘Text Neck’ these days), excessive noise, bad air quality, or sickness or infection could cause headaches.

A typical cause of headaches is that spinal bones in the neck aren’t supporting your head properly, which can affect nerves, muscles and even the blood supply to your head.

The good news is that chiropractic care is a great way to treat headaches, not only dulling the pain short-term (like with medication and prescription drugs) but allowing the body to naturally heal.

The vast majority of headaches – no matter how severe – can be relieved when spinal subluxations (out of place spinal joints that irritate the nerves) are corrected and proper alignment is achieved.

How prevalent are headaches in the U.S.?

90% of people get at least an occasional headache

75% of the population have episodes of headaches

50% of people have had a severe headache

And 25% of the entire population gets recurring severe headaches

12% of the U.S. population have occasional migraine headaches

And 4%, or one in twenty-five people, have chronic daily headaches 

So what types of headaches are there?

  1. Tension headache

The most common type of headache, tension headaches account for about 78% of all headaches. These feel like a constricting band is around your head, but usually don’t come with other feelings of illness. Tension headaches are often caused by a tightening of the face, jaw, eyes, neck and shoulders because of stress, anxiety, or bad posture.

  1. Migraine headache

Migraine headaches are severe, with the World Health Organization rating migraines the 19th leading cause of years lived with disability. In the typical month, migraine sufferers lose .64 days of work and suffer through 12.7 hours of impairment. 94% of people who go to their medical doctor complaining about episode of headaches actually have migraines, though only 50% of those with migraines are ever diagnose. 

  1. Sinus headaches

There is some confusion about the clinical diagnosis of sinus headaches, as nearly 90% of all people who are diagnosed as having sinus headaches have migraines, and about 50% of people with migraines suffer some eye tearing or nasal stuffiness as well.

  1. Cluster headache

These headaches are severe and concentrate around the eye and temple and can last 20 minutes all the way to 2 hours. While cluster headaches are relatively rare, afflicting only .05% of the population, they are different than migraines with a different diagnosis and treatment.

  1. Chronic daily headache

An astounding 1 in 20 people, or 5% of the population, get chronic daily headaches. There can be many causes, but they usually have a history of migraines and the overuse of medication.

How can you treat headaches?

How you treat your headaches varies depending on the type, cause and severity of the headache. These are some common methods people use to alleviate headaches, though they may not be the most effective:

With tension headaches, many people treat the symptoms short-term with aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) that can be bought over the counter.

 Most people treat migraines with over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, though pharmaceuticals may just mask the symptoms and not treat the root cause. Migraine sufferers also commonly sit in a dark room, apply hot or cold compresses, and possibly use massage.

Cluster headaches are often treated with preventive medications and also by inhaling 100% oxygen through a mask.

A warning about how MDs treat headaches with prescription drugs and medications:

If you visit a medical doctor when your hradaches worsen or become more common, he or she will most likely prescribe medications. But those drugs only numb the nervous system, dulling the pain temporarily but doing nothing to treat the root cause. In fact, they may do more harm than good, as powerful prescription drugs often have an adverse effect on the liver and kidneys.

Medical doctors also might order an expensive MRI or CT Scan of your brain to try to pinpoint the cause of the headache – almost one-third of them do so. However, this is usually a waste of time and money, as studies reveal that only one in 11,200 patients with headache have a problem that shows up on these types of tests.

In some rare cases, headaches can be caused by sever conditions like brain tumors or diabetes, but for the vast majority of people, that is not the case and a MD’s MRI, CT Scan, and prescription drugs are not the place to start.

But there are more natural, holistic measures to try to prevent, minimize, or treat headaches.

  1. Meditation, or relaxing in a dark room and quieting your mind every day.
  2. Ice packs and cold compresses applied to the back of the neck, the head, and the temple.
  3. Lie down with a small pillow or towel rolled up to support the neck without pushing the head forward.
  4. Moderate exercise and remaining physically fit.
  5. Taking proper dietary supplements.
  6. Staying hydrated.
  7. Massage and pressure points.
  8. Taking a hot or cold shower.
  9. Eating healthy and smaller meals.
  10. Maintain good posture.
  11. Avoid too little or too much sleep.
  12. Don’t sleep on your stomach.

Chiropractic is most effective in treating and curing headaches:

It’s been proven that chiropractic care helps prevent and treat tension and stress in the neck, shoulders, and head. Therefore, chiropractic care often provides relief – sometimes immediately – when the body is realigned. A study of headache sufferers over two years revealed that chiropractic care gave them significant improvement. In fact, about 75% of all subjects that suffered from migraines either had them go away all together or improve greatly after chiropratic care.

So if you get bad headaches – or they are becoming more frequent or more severe – don’t reach for the pill bottle, but call us for a chiropractic appointment for true and lasting relief.