chiropractic helps with headaches

Can Chiropractic Help With Different Types of Headaches?

What kind of headaches do you get?  Is the pain usually concentrated on one side of the head, on both sides, or located in the back of your head?  Does the pain tend to be sharp, throbbing or squeezing?  Based on your answers to these questions, it is usually easy to determine the exact type of headaches that you suffer from.  In this post, we will talk about migraine, cluster and tension headaches, and what you can do to help when you get them.

Migraine Headaches

When it comes to headaches, migraines are usually the type of headache that people have heard the most about.  However, in practice, I have found that most people do not know what a true migraine headache is.  In my experience, the majority of people think that a migraine is just a bad headache.  While migraines are associated with severe pain, a true migraine is characterized by a very specific set of symptoms.  Most people who think they get migraines, usually suffer from a different type of headache.

True migraine headaches consist of four separate phases: the prodrome, aura, attack and postdrome.  The first phase of a migraine is the prodrome.  This phase usually occurs a day or two before the headache itself, and is a period where the person can feel the headache coming on.  Many times it is characterized by a feeling of impending doom, as they know the headache is coming and they are just waiting for it to start.  During the prodrome, someone might also experience mood changes, food cravings or neck stiffness.

Following the prodrome is the stage of a migraine known as the aura. Although this is a common symptom for migraine sufferers, not all migraines with have an aura.  The aura can occur either directly before or during the migraine headache.  This phase consists of neurologic symptoms, most commonly associated with vision.  A person may complain of seeing bright spots or flashes of light, light sensitivity, or even vision loss.  In some cases, they might also experience tingling in either their arms or legs, difficulty speaking or muscle weakness.

The next phase of a migraine headache is the attack, or the headache itself.  This is usually described as a throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head.  Migraines can last between four to seventy two hours and are almost always associated with nausea or vomiting.  During this period, someone may complain of blurred vision and lightheadedness, and in some cases may faint.

The final phase of a migraine is the postdrome.  This phase occurs in the twenty four hours after the attack.  This phase is usually characterized by a feeling of exhaustion, although some people also experience feelings of euphoria.  Dizziness and moodiness are other common feelings during the postdrome.

Cluster Headaches

One type of headache that many people are unfamiliar with are cluster headaches.  These headaches tend to be described as the most painful of all headaches.  They get their name due to the fact that they tend to occur every day for weeks or months, but then can not occur again for months or even years.  

Although the exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, we know that it is due to some form of irritation to the trigeminal nerve.  The trigeminal nerve is one of twelve cranial nerves that starts in the brain stem and then runs in three separate branches across the face.   Due to this, cluster headaches tend to be on one side of the head, and tend to be accompanied by pain on one side of the face.

Cluster headaches tend to be described as an extremely sharp pain, and can last anywhere from thirty minutes to a few hours.  In addition to pain, people who suffer from cluster headaches also commonly complain of redness or tearing of the eye, a runny nose, or flushing or pale skin on one side of their face.  During a period of cluster headaches, a headache will usually occur at the same time each day, which is why the are also called “alarm clock headaches.”

Tension Headaches

If you are reading this post, in all likelihood, you have had at least one tension headache during your life.  They are by far the most common of all headaches.  These are the headaches that you get after a long day sitting in front of your computer, or on days when you are under a lot of stress.  Due to this, tension headaches are also commonly referred to as stress headaches.

A tension headache will commonly also be associated with neck pain or neck stiffness.  Typically, someone will begin to notice issues in their neck before the onset of a tension headache.  These headaches usually start in the back of the head and then wrap around to the forehead, and are usually only on one side of the head. Tension headaches are typically described as a dull, achy type pain, although sometimes people will say that they feel like their head is being squeezed like they are wearing a headband.

Tension headaches occur due to problems in the neck.  A misalignment of one of the vertebra in the neck will often cause this type of headache.  When the vertebra shifts out of its normal position in can put pressure on the nerve that runs to the head, thus causing the headache.  For this reason, tension headaches respond extremely well to chiropractic care.  

These misalignments are often caused due to things you do on an everyday basis.  Sitting with bad posture, not using proper ergonomics, or sleeping in bad positions can all cause misalignments of the neck, which may lead to tension headaches.  Therefore, it is important that in addition to chiropractic care that you also address any of these issues, to ensure that you keep the headaches from coming back in the future.  Chiropractic care is not only successful at treating tension headaches, but can also provide relief from those that suffer from cluster or migraine headaches as well. 

Do any of these headaches sound like the headaches that you get on a regular basis?  Whether you suffer from migraine, cluster or tension headaches, you don’t have to keep dealing with them.  Consult with a chiropractor and find out if chiropractic care is the answer to finally getting rid of your headaches.

About the Author Dr. Kevin Wafer

Dr. Kevin Wafer was born and raised in Spring, TX. Since his mother worked as a chiropractic assistant, he spent much of his childhood in a chiropractic clinic and was adjusted for the first time at only 3 months of age. Click Here To Read Full Bio

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