June is National Headache Awareness. Woodbury Spine is bringing awareness to causes & treatments most commonly not discussed.
Causes & Treatments that help Alleviate Headaches
Concussions, usually caused by severe upper body shaking or a sharp blow to the head, can cause painful headaches as well as difficulty seeing/concentrating and vomiting or seizures. Think of your brain like a bowl of gelatin (since that is the brain’s natural consistency). This jiggly consistency protects the brain from regular bounces and jolts. But a sharp blow to the head or severe shaking can cause the brain to bounce violently off the inner skull walls, resulting in temporary injury.
Concussions are serious business, especially since they can cause seizures, brain bleeding, or swelling of the brain. When you experience a blow to the head or severe shaking, seek medical help, even if you’re not immediately experiencing symptoms.
Recommended Chiropractic Treatment: Your chiropractor can check for any possible neck injuries (which often occur with concussive brain injuries) and administer cervical adjustments to help ease neck and some head pain. The chiropractor also will most likely recommend physical and mental rest while the brain heals, along with avoiding aspirin, alcohol, and anti-inflammatories. Adding high dose DHA omegas and gut protecting supplements are also key to helping with brain recover. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have suffered any serious blows to the head before. Secondary brain injury is dangerous and should be addressed.
Subluxations are misalignments in the spine. They occur when the spine’s vertebrae slip out of alignment and cause pressure on the nervous system. This can cause pain, muscle tension, and poor performance of the body’s natural functions.
Some headaches are caused by misalignments in the cervical vertebrae (the discs in the neck) that cause nerve pressure and muscle tension in the neck. Tense muscles interrupt the nerve messages from the neck to the brain and can pull the vertebrae out of alignment, causing those pesky misalignments.
Recommended Chiropractic Treatment: Medication only masks the symptom instead of addressing the problem. Your chiropractor will perform cervical adjustments and help relieve muscle tension (through trigger point therapy or massage) to help reduce misalignments.
Vision issues can cause the headaches you feel around the forehead and behind the eyes region of your head. When the eye muscles strain to see, they put pressure on the optic nerve. Nerve pressure leads to headaches. Muscle strain can be caused by poor vision, bright lights, or staring too long at a screen or book.
Recommended Chiropractic Treatment: By adjusting the upper cervical vertebrae (C-1 and C-2), chiropractors can help relieve some pain caused by eye strain. They often recommend taking breaks from looking at screens and books too long. Also, protect your eyes from bright lights by wearing sunglasses while outside.
If you are having trouble reading the computer screen, seeing things in the distance, or focusing on the print in the book you’re reading, have your eyes checked to see if you need vision correction.
Sinusitis, the swelling of the sinus membranes, puts pressure on the nose, forehead, and cheeks. This can cause headaches that make you feel like your nose is going to fall off your face (not literally, but…you get the picture).
A common cause of sinusitis is an infection, though general inflammation from allergies or other irritants can cause those sinuses to swell. Sinusitis can also occur during a migraine headache due to pressure buildup in the head.
Recommended Chiropractic Treatment: Chiropractors usually conduct a physical examination to determine the cause of the swelling. They can apply pressure to the joints in the face, skull, or spine (through processes known as chiropractic manipulative therapy and light-force cranial manipulation) to help relieve pressure and straighten misalignments that are putting pressure on the facial nerves.
Aller Pro is a supplement that we also recommend in our office to assist with sinusitis. It's great for allergies, colds, or any upper respiratory issue by providing healthy upper reparatory, sinus, and immune function.
5. CHANGE IN SLEEP ROUTINE
Sleep is the time when the body and mind can relax and repair themselves. When we get inadequate sleep, our bodies let us know. One way is through headaches. Sleep disorders are a common trigger for many migraine sufferers. Disorders like insomnia (where you have difficulty falling or staying asleep for weeks on end) or sleep apnea (a disorder that causes you to stop breathing while sleeping) can cause the brain to miss out on the deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep needed to feel rested and alert.
Recommended Chiropractic Treatment: While a sleep study may be necessary for conditions like sleep apnea, chiropractors often make recommendations to help with sleep disorders like insomnia, such as:
Go to bed at a set time every night (including weekends).
Take a warm bath in the evening.
Avoid reading from computers or tablets for at least one hour before bed.
Sleep in a well-ventilated room.
Hang dark curtains or use a sleep mask to block as much light as possible.
Get some cardiovascular exercise during the day (a quick walk at lunch is great for this), but avoid exercising 3-4 hours before bedtime.
6. FOOD ALLERGIES & SENSITIVITIES, STRESS, & HORMONE DYSREGULATION
All these factors can be contributing factors to migraines or occasional headaches. It's important to identify which contributing factor is affecting you by doing the appropriate testing. Blood tests, food elimination diets, and questionnaires are a few ways we identify which factors are contributing to each person's chronic headaches. After doing a full chiropractic analysis, if the Chiropractor feels the structure of the spine or nervous system is NOT the main contributor he/she will start investigating into other causes such as these. Diet always being the first thing we look at because our gut and diet can affect stress, disease, and hormone regulation in our bodies.
Environmental causes such as secondhand tobacco smoke, smells from chemicals or perfumes. Other toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, preservatives in food, heavy metal exposure, etc. These are all substances our body does not recognize as normal and has a tendency to store in our system in order to protect internal organs from the harmful affects associated with them. A 10 day to 28 day Detox Program may be recommended if toxicity is determined as the cause of headaches.
Other things to look at and think about adding to your regimen: regular massages to help alleviate muscle tension and stress, adding supplements such as magnesium or B vitamins, addressing your posture by doing more mobility (see our mobility specialist Dawn for an analysis), detox baths, regular stretching, and most importantly make sure you are staying hydrated!