HEADACHES… They’re not all in your head

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Over 45 million people suffer from headaches, and take numerous over the counter or prescriptive medications for temporary relief. Many of these headaches are not due to problems within the head, but rather involve issues with the cervical spine and the surrounding muscles.

There are an estimated 45 million Americans that suffer from severe, recurring attacks of migraine and tension headaches. They spend upwards of $400 million each year on over-the-counter and prescription drugs in their search for permanent relief. Unfortunately, for many, the relief obtained is temporary at best. This cycle of headaches and medication often occurs without finding any lasting relief. So why not address the cause of the headache, rather than chase the symptom around? Often the problem is not in your head, but rather your neck!

Recent research links headache pain to nerve irritation. One study conducted at the University of Maryland, found a connection between headaches and muscle tension at the base of the head. Muscles tighten or contract, which interferes with the nerve signals leading to pressure and pain in the area. These headaches that stay focused at the back/base of the skull are known as “suboccipital” headaches.

Some people may have been previously exposed to traumas, whiplash, falls, or chronic neck pain. Often the spinal vertebra become misaligned (subluxated) in the cervical region resulting in pain that travels from the base of the head to the top or the sides (temple region), and even behind the eyes. This pain pattern follows the path traveled by the nerve from the base of the skull. These types of headaches are known as “cervicogenic” headaches, due to their origination in the cervical spine (neck).

There is a saying that “Structure dictates function.” Therefore, the primary approach to treatment of these headaches is to align (adjust) the structure (vertebra) and then focus on the function. In addressing the function, it is essential that this treatment involve stretching, rehabilitation, and therapeutic massage. Adjunctive therapies could include ultrasound, electrical stimulation (TENS), and hot/cold packs. Some patients may say, “I just want massage therapy.” The downside of this approach is the relief is only temporary, because you have not addressed the underlying cause of the “structure.” Once the vertebra is properly aligned, the muscles can now function effectively in the manner in which they were designed. This, in turn, leads to the elimination of the headaches.

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Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene. (208) 966-4425.

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