We're all familiar with the common pain that is a persistent headache. Although most headaches are painful, the potential causes are many and varied, ranging from muscle tension to neurological disorders. An experienced chiropractor can help identify the source of your symptoms and use that knowledge as a guide for the most effective chiropractic headache treatments for you.
The following list represents five of the more common types of headaches, but it's important to note that your own headache may be caused by factors outside this list, or even by multiple co-existing issues. (For instance, migraines and sinus headaches often co-occur.) That’s why seeking the help of a chiropractor to better understand the causes can lead to relief.
Anyone who experiences migraines can tell that a migraine is no ordinary headache. These episodes involve severe head pain, often limited to one side of the head, usually accompanied by other symptoms such as (but not only):
Migraines can be brought on by many triggers, including hormones, loud sounds, bright lights, and certain smells or foods specific to each patient. Stress and tension can also cause migraines, which is why a chiropractor might be able to reduce the frequency of migraines for certain patients.
People who experience frequent migraines might need a preventative medicine to reduce how often migraines happen, or a "rescue" medication to help in the middle of an episode. This can also be assessed during your chiropractic evaluation.
Tension is one of the most frequent causes of headaches among adults. These headaches often start with muscle tension in the shoulders and neck, though they can also be caused by poor sleep, stress, anxiety, and other triggers. During a tension headache, you'll likely feel a dull pressure on both sides of your head, which will likely go away after a few hours.
Tension headaches don't usually need treatment other than rest and over-the-counter medicine. Chiropractic adjustment may ease the muscle strain causing tension headaches, providing relief for some patients.
When allergies or sinus infections occur, the result can be a dull, throbbing pain in the forehead, cheeks, and eyes. These sinus headaches come from swelling in the sinus cavities, and they can be extremely uncomfortable. It's rare to experience a sinus headache without other symptoms of allergy or infection such as nasal discharge, facial pressure, or tooth pain.
Sinus headaches can be treated with allergy medicines, over-the-counter painkillers, and decongestants. Chiropractic care may also help prevent future sinus headaches caused by allergies.
Cluster headaches are rare, but they cause extremely intense, occasional pain behind the eye, sometimes along with other eye symptoms. Attacks often come in bursts ("clusters"), and these periods can last months in severe cases. The cause of cluster headaches is not currently known, but patients should see a doctor as there are some medications known to help.
Exertional headaches are throbbing headaches brought on by exercise. They typically don't require treatment aside from rest and hydration, but frequent sufferers may want to see a doctor or chiropractor for preventative measures.
The one-off headache is nothing to worry about—everyone gets them from time to time, and many go away on their own. If you’re experiencing headaches more than a few times a week, it may be time to seek help from a chiropractor who can evaluate your pain and recommend a course of treatment that may also include your general practitioner.
If you experience sudden and severe pain, or you have a fever, confusion and/or nausea with your headache you should be seen right away by a medical professional to rule out medical conditions such as meningitis or aneurism.
When you visit a chiropractor, you can expect an initial assessment to determine the possible causes of your pain and the types of chiropractic care that may be effective. Because many headaches come from chronic muscle tension, treatment options might include spinal adjustments or manipulations, spinal decompression, massage therapy, or electrical muscle stimulation. Then, care proceeds in three steps: