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Taking the "Ache" out of Your Headache

By: Dr. Amanda Meyers 

Did you know 9 out of 10 Americans suffers from headaches?

According to the American Chiropractic Association, 95% of headaches are primary, meaning there is no disease involved, but the headache is the primary concern.  Primary headaches include tension, migraine, and cluster.  I will be discussing 3 different triggers of the tension-type headache from which millions suffer. 

Did you know there are multiple joints per vertebral level?

cspineEach one of these joints has nerves that respond to its movements and helps the mind perceive where the body is in space.  If the joint is not moving properly or at all, the body uses nerves called “nociceptors” which respond to improper movement and irritation by sending pain to the brain.  With 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae, there is a great opportunity for the lack of proper movement, therefore, sending pain signals.

Did you know muscles have a particular “referral pattern?”

 When there is a dysfunction or trigger point (area of significant tension) present, the muscle refers pain to surrounding areas.  For example, the trapezius muscle refers pain up the neck and into the side of the head, sometimes reaching to the front over the eyes.  (Gym enthusiasts are familiar with this “shoulder shrug” muscle.)  Many people mistake this referral pattern for a “sinus headache.”  The pain location is almost identical.  Of course, other symptoms help to differentiate between sinus congestion and associated headaches and a tension-type headache.  If you have discharge from your sinuses, you are probably suffering from a sinus headache; however, do not discount the power of a combination of tension headache and sinus headache.

Another fascinating connection within the body is the “Myodural Bridge.” 

TPRP2There are muscles in the back of your neck just below the base of the skull, described as your “suboccipital muscles.”  Although small, the suboccipitals have the ability to generate significant pain and tension.  They are deep within the neck and their muscle fibers reach out and attach inside to the dura mater that covers the spinal cord and brain.  Interestingly, if the muscles are taut they can then pull on the dura causing tension within the central nervous system.  The result is pain generated from the outside muscles and joints and also pain and tension coming from deep within the body.

Why is there muscle tension and joint dysfunction? 

There are many different reasons including the following: posture, sitting at the computer for hours, standing on hard surfaces, performing repetitive motions, driving and traveling frequently and/or for long periods of time, and more.  After times of stress, the body adapts to the changes and retains tension and starts letting you know by sending pain signals, hence, the headache.

Now the big question is “What can chiropractic do for me?”

Chiropractic care reduces the tension by inducing and manipulating the joints in the neck and back to have proper joint motion and relaxing the muscles.  Relief can be achieved using a combination of the chiropractic adjustment (inducing proper motion into the joints) and soft tissue manipulation techniques (which address the trigger points and referral patterns of muscles).   Nutritional advice can have a significant impact as well.  Vitamins and minerals are essential for healthy joints and muscles.  Lastly, addressing the triggers such as posture and compounding activities helps to prevent reoccurrence of the headaches.  The goal is to educate both the body and mind so that the patient can have a pro-active role in his/her own well-being and learn what he/she can do and also when it is necessary to seek help before the problem becomes a “headache!”

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