Headaches affect just about everyone at some point and they can present themselves in many different ways.
Some people only experience pain in one part of their head or behind their eyes, some people experience a pounding sensation inside their whole head, and some people even experience nausea, while others do not. The pain itself may be dull or sharp and may last for anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. Fortunately, very few headaches have serious underlying causes, but those that do require urgent medical attention.
Chiropractic adjustments are very effective for treating tension headaches. A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that “spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than commonly prescribed medications.” These findings support an earlier study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that found spinal manipulative therapy to be very effective for treating tension headaches. Each person’s case is different and requires a thorough evaluation before a proper course of chiropractic care can be determined.
Tension headaches affect upwards of 75% of all headache sufferers. Most people describe a tension headache as a constant dull, achy feeling either on one side or both sides of the head, often described as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. These headaches usually begin slowly and gradually and can last for 30 minutes to several days or months. They tend to begin in the middle or toward the end of the day. Tension headaches are often the result of stress or bad posture, which stresses the spine and muscles in the upper back and neck. Another cause of tension headaches is referred pain from trigger points in the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) or levator muscle on the side of the neck. These are much more common in people who suffer a whiplash injury due to the muscle damage in the neck region.
Each year, about 25 million people in the U.S. experience migraine headaches and about 75% are women. Migraines are intense and throbbing headaches that are often associated with nausea and sensitivity to light or noise. They can last from as little as a few hours to as long as a few days. Many of those who suffer from migraines experience visual symptoms called an “aura” just prior to an attack that is often described as seeing flashing lights or that everything takes on a dream-like appearance. Migraine sufferers usually have their first attack before age 30, sometimes several in a month or less than one a year. Migraines tend to run in families and most people find that migraine attacks occur less frequently and become less severe as they get older. Migraine headaches are caused by a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain, followed by a dilation of blood vessels causing a rapid increase in blood pressure inside the head. No one knows why the blood vessels constrict, but we do know that there are a number of things that can trigger migraines, such as lack of sleep, stress, flickering lights, strong odors, changing weather patterns and several foods; especially foods that are high in an amino acid called “tyramine.”
Cluster headaches are typically very short in duration, excruciating headaches, usually felt on one side of the head behind the eyes. Cluster headaches affect about 1 million people in the United States and, unlike migraines, are much more common in men. This is the only type of headache that tends to occur at night. The reason that they are called “cluster” headaches is that they tend to occur one to four times per day over a period of several days. After one cluster of headaches is over, it may be months or even years, before they occur again. Like migraines, cluster headaches are likely to be related to a dilation of the blood vessels in the brain, causing a localized increase in pressure.