“Not Tonight Dear, I Have a Headache.”

[originally published in KCN, January 1998]headache

Headaches.  They’ve put a damper in many a nights. We’ve all had one at one time or another.  Because headaches are so common, some people might mistakenly think that getting a headache is just a normal part of life.  The fact is, headaches are NOT normal!  They are a sign that something is wrong.  Headaches are one of the top reasons people visit their doctors and are a multi-billion dollar cash cow for the over-the-counter drug industry.

Headaches come in all shapes and sizes.  The International Headache Society (ISH) is the trusted authority for classifying the many different types of headaches.  Recently, the ISH recognized a “new type” of headache: the cervicogenic headache (ie. generating from the neck).  Actually, only the name is new — chiropractors have been treating this type of headache for over 100 years.  When spinal bones of the neck lose their normal motion or position, sensitive nerves and blood vessels to the head can be affected, producing throbbing headaches.  Surrounding muscles can get tight and stressed out making the condition even worse.

Current studies are finding that cervicogenic headaches are relatively common with about the same prevalence as migraines — that is if you can tell the two apart.  A study out of the journal Functional Neurology stated that cervicogenic headaches and migraines have so many traits in common, that they may be mixed up from time to time.    But cervicogenic headaches don’t necessarily have to exist on their own.  Another study from the same journal pointed out that cervicogenic headaches can coexist as a complicating factor to other types of headaches like migraine, tension headache, combination headache, and drug induced headache.  A study out of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that 84 to 92% of their patients with  migraines or tension headaches had neck involvement.

dealing-with-rusty-joints-2-flipIf a headache is stemming from the neck, taking pain pills will only cover up the problem temporarily — only to have the problem return…and return….and return.  Not only can relying on heavy and prolonged use of pain medication  lead to addiction, gastric irritation, liver toxicity, and kidney failure — but, ironically, it can cause something called rebound headache; which means that taking the pain medication actually promotes and increases the headache!  Chiropractors seek to correct the underlying cause of the headache naturally, without the use of drugs, by restoring the normal motion and position to the bones in the neck.  A study just released from the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics confirmed chiropractic’s effectiveness for treatment of cervicogenic headaches.  The study showed a significant reduction in the number and intensity of cervicogenic headaches following a short course of chiropractic care.

Your Doctor of Chiropractic is specially trained and experienced at detecting and treating headaches generating from and aggravated by the neck.  So when that next headache hits, instead of masking the pain, consult your chiropractor and begin correcting the root of the problem….and maybe then, you can start enjoying your nights more.


Sources used for this article:
Curl.  Don’t take aspirin, but call me in the morning.  Dynamic Chiropractic.  1997; 15 (21): 8-9.
Headaches and the chiropractic lifestyle.  Back Talk Systems, Inc.  1995.
Nilsson. The prevalence of cervicogenic headache in a random population sample of 20-59 year olds.      Spine 1995; 20(17): 1884-1888.
Nilsson and others.  The effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of cervicogenic headache.  JMPT     1997; 20: 326-30.
Pfaffenrath and Kaube.  Diagnostics of cervicogenic headache.  Functional Neurology.  1990;  5 (2):      159-164.
Sjaastad and Bovim.  Cervicogenic headache.  The differentiation from common migraine.  An overview.  Functional Neurology 1991; 6 (2):  93-100.
Vernon and others.  Cervicogenic dysfunction in muscle contraction headache and migraine:  a descriptive study.  JMPT  1992; 15(7):  418-429.
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