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Headaches – Head & Neck

Most Canadians will suffer from at least one headache in their lifetime; however, the reason for the headache can differ from one individual to another. In fact, headache triggers can vary from environment, food, stress, dehydration and others. Still, headaches or pain to the head can be caused or referred from muscles, joints, ligaments or nerves.

Causes:

Migraine – the cause of migraines is still unknown, but there seems to be a relationship between individual genetics and the environment. Migraines are commonly associated with triggers. These can include hormonal changes, food and additives, stress, sleep, physical and sensory factors, changes in the environment and certain medications.

Cervicogenic – headache that stems from the neck or cervical spine structures. Pain can be triggered or worsened by neck movement.

Tension-type – occurs due to tension in the muscles of the neck or face which produces pain. Factors associated can include stress, anxiety, eyestrain, poor posture, injuries and others.

Cluster – similar to migraines, the cause of cluster headaches is unknown. It has been suggested that cluster headaches may be caused by problems in regulating temperature, blood pressure, hormones or sleep. Other causes or triggers proposed include alcohol, tobacco and drugs (e.g. nitroglycerin).

Symptoms:

Migraine – intense throbbing or pulsing sensation on one or both sides of the head frequently accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. Migraine can be preceded by an “aura” that can present as a flash of light, blind spots or tingling.

Cervicogenic – pain usually on one side of the head. The pain can start at the base of the skull and spread to the front of the head.

Tension-type – constant pain and pressure described as dull and achy. Pain can be felt on both sides of the head, forehead, temples and even back of the head. Often referred to as a tight band around the head.

Cluster – severe, stabbing, penetrating, burning or explosive recurring pain that is located on one side of the head. Cluster headaches have a rapid onset and can frequently present in patterns or “clusters” over a certain period of time. Often described as starting around or “behind” the eye and can cause redness or watering of the eye, stuffy or runny nose, droopy eyelid, facial swelling or flushing and sensitivity to light and noise.

 Examples: Migraine, cervicogenic, tension-type, cluster and sinus.

How our experts can help: Chiropractors can assess, diagnose and manage headaches; however, in some cases referral and co-management may be the most appropriate course of treatment. Evidence has demonstrated that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulative therapy, can be an effective treatment for cervicogenic and tension-type headaches. More so, studies have demonstrated that care offered by chiropractors can also decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines. Depending on the findings of the history and patient examination, the chiropractor may recommend patient reassurance, manual therapies, modalities and lifestyle recommendations including rehabilitation. However, the plan of management will be individualized to the patient’s needs and examination findings. The treatment options may include:

  • Patient education and reassurance
  • Manipulation and mobilization
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Modalities including electrical stimulation, acupuncture, ultrasound and others
  • Rehabilitation and exercises
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle changes
  • Referral and co-management
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