A headache or ‘cephalgia’ is a pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck. It can be a symptom of a number of conditions of the head and neck. This article will discuss the non-pathological origins of headaches and treatment options that you may not be aware of.
A pathological headache means headaches that are the result of tumours or cancerous growths involving the brain, skull or surrounding structures which are out of the scope of practice of the author of this article. It is important however, that as with any health condition, the more serious diagnoses must be ruled out and all competent health practitioners will hopefully do their due diligence for their own protection and especially for their patient’s protection.
For the purpose of this discussion, we will concentrate on the most common form of headaches: migraines, tension headaches, sinus headaches, cluster headaches, headaches resulting from TMJ dysfunction, and headaches resulting from neck trauma.
Neck trauma would be any type of injury playing contact sports such as football, soccer, rugby, hockey or any type of sport where the head and neck would be subject to repetitive and/or quick, sudden violent movements. Many people don’t realize that soccer players, for example, have a high incidence of degenerative change in the neck (cervical spine) due to ‘heading’ the ball which is not a normal activity for the neck but is a normal occurrence and is a standard part of the game of soccer.
Other contact sports such as hockey and football, for example, carry the risk of serious neck trauma which can result in concussions (which has become a major concern in this day and age), neck fractures, and varying degrees of paralysis.
Obviously one would be at high risk of developing headaches in any of these scenarios.
Whiplash injuries, whether from a simple fall (this happens more than you would think), a car accident, a work injury, or a sporting injury (falling off the skateboard, surfboard, bicycle, etc.); always increase the probability that one will develop headaches. And then there are the headaches that result from poor job posture (especially with computer workers), people who work with arms above the head frequently, people who have issues with their jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ) and even those who were unfortunate victims of a difficult birth. In the latter case, these may not show up until the age of four or five, but are a very real occurrence especially if the birth process was induced or the forceps or head vacuum were used to assist the delivery process.
It is important to understand that no headache is ‘normal’. If you are suffering from any type of headaches, it is a symptom or signal that there is an underlying problem. Sometimes these can be traced to things such as alcohol abuse, over- or under-eating, drug abuse and allergies for example; but otherwise, they are indicative of a more serious health condition.
And the very, very unfortunate thing is that too many people rely on too much medication to treat their headaches. This is a hugely fruitless approach in the long run as the headaches almost always keep coming back and then more or different or stronger medications are recommended or prescribed.
Did you know that ‘billions’ of dollars are now spent each year in North America on over-the-counter pain killers for the symptomatic relief of headaches alone?!
What many people fail to realize is that medications do nothing to address why the headaches are there. The drugs just mask the pain (if that), not to mention the many and sometimes very dangerous side-effects such as stomach ulcers and kidney failure (just to mention two).
Moreover, in all my years of practice, I have yet to see someone be afflicted with headaches because they were not taking medication or because they were not taking enough medication. It would be prudent for anyone taking medication to investigate all the possible side-effects and this may take a little effort but is well worth it because drug companies are mostly concerned with how much they can sell.
Side-effects and reactions with other medications are a secondary concern for them. There are two important things for you to understand. First, a headache is not a brain ache. The brain tissue itself is not sensitive to pain because it lacks pain receptors. The brain, most of its membranes, and the skull feel no pain at all. That is why during brain surgery, patients can be wide awake, even conversing with the surgeon while their brains are being operated on (a local anesthetic is used to numb the scalp). Rather, the pain is caused by an irritation or disturbance of the pain-sensitive structures around the brain. several areas of the head and neck have these pain-sensitive structures which are divided into two categories: those within the skull (blood vessels, meninges and cranial nerves), and those found outside the skull (the bone of the skull, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, eyes, ears, sinus tissue and the mucous membranes).
Second, there is most always an alignment issue (poor neck posture) with the neck regardless of what type of headache you suffer from, how long you’ve had them, how severe they are, and what medication you have tried or are currently using.
Even if you are totally desperate because you have been told that you just have to ‘live with them’, you have not been told the whole story towards a solution.
Even if you have tried acupuncture or massage there is still hope.
Chances are you have never had your neck properly aligned and it’s the malfunctioning vertebrae that will irritate the delicate nerves and arteries.
If you irritate the delicate nerves and arteries of the head and/or neck, you can bet the end result will be headaches of any type, classification or presentation.
This is why chiropractic care has helped hundreds of thousands of patients for over 110 years find headache relief without using dangerous medication or drugs.
We address the cause of the headache, not the effect which is the headache itself. This is the fundamental difference between chiropractic treatment and standard medical treatment, and hence why we have had such positive results helping people heal from this very preventable condition.