Simply put, a headache is a condition of mild to very severe pain in the head. Although the International Headache Society has classified a wide range of headaches, the two most common are tension and migraine headaches, which account for approximately 90% of all reported headaches.
The causes of headaches are numerous and varied and include chronic stress, depression, anxiety, misaligned or fused vertebrae, activities such as prolonged and frequent computer use, head or neck trauma, chronic fatigue, excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, smoking, sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position or any activity that causes the head to be held in one position for a long time, pinched nerve, eyestrain, inflammation of the sinus cavities, allergies to or intolerance of certain foods, musculoskeletal misalignment, arthritis, medicinal reactions, environmental factors and life‐changing events or life‐threatening conditions, among others.
Besides general head pain, headache symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, numbness or tingling, partial obstruction of the visual field or blurred vision, extreme sensitivity to light, sound or even to certain smells, excruciating one-sided head pain in the temple or behind one eye, temporary hearing impairment, and so on.
Appropriate treatment for headaches is highly specialized and depends on the specific patient’s response, any associated health conditions and the type of headache diagnosed. Headache treatment is divided into two categories: abortive and prophylactic (long term). Abortive treatment addresses a headache in progress and prophylactic treatment offers solutions intended to prevent headache recurrence.
Although drug treatments are effective for some patients, for treatment of some types of headaches for a particular incident and for relatively short periods of time (abortive treatment), they usually do not address or cure the underlying conditions. Because of this, more and more headache sufferers have turned to complementary or alternative treatments such as chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and therapeutic massage.
Before suggesting any treatment, Dr. Alex will assess your general health via physical examination. If his examination does not reveal a cause for your headaches that he can successfully treat, he will refer you to another medical professional. If, however, Dr. Alex determines that the cause of your headaches can be resolved through manipulation and/or acupuncture he will recommend that course of treatment with the goal of preventing or minimizing future occurrences.
Manipulation: Without surgery or drugs, chiropractic care works to correct neck and spinal misalignments that can cause headaches and to relieve the symptoms associated with tension headaches. Research has shown that chiropractic manipulation is helpful in treating neck pain and headaches. According to a WebMD article regarding a recent report from a major medical university, chiropractic treatment is one of the most effective treatments for sufferers of head and neck pain. The study revealed that chiropractic therapy is successful because it treats the root causes of the problem, and therefore promotes and enhances the achievement of physical improvement that lasts far beyond the treatment.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is thought to decrease pain by increasing the release of chemicals that block pain, called endorphins. Endorphins, along with other neurotransmitters (body chemicals that modify nerve impulses), block the message of pain from being delivered to the brain. Acupuncture may be useful as an accompanying treatment for many pain-related conditions, including headaches. In a recent study, acupuncture was shown to reduce chronic pain in the neck and shoulder areas and associated headache, with the effects lasting for months – thus indicating that acupuncture’s unique anti-pain approach may indeed be long-lasting.
Although the value of massage in treating headaches has not been thoroughly demonstrated in clinical trials, when expertly provided it is a great way to relieve tension and reduce stress, and is unquestionably relaxing. It is especially effective in loosening tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back of the head by increasing blood flow to those areas, which in turn provides some patients relief from headaches by reducing or eliminating muscle tension.