Chiropractic care, which includes a combination of joint and vertebral adjustments, is often used for headache management and prevention. Chiropractic care helps to decrease the frequency and duration of headaches (not all types) and migraines. The most common question we get in our practice is what is the difference between a migraine and headache?
Chiropractic care can help decrease the frequency and duration of certain headache types, which have a cervicogenic/ mechanical component to them. Cervicogenic headaches typically begin with one-sided pain that starts at the back of the head and then moves to the front, often with accompanying same-side shoulder or arm pain. This type of headache often feels dull in the forehead and around the eyes. Cervicogenic headaches are believed to stem from an underlying neck problem and may be triggered by an injury or heightened stress levels forming trigger points at the base of the occiput.
Options for cervicogenic headaches include:
- Spinal adjustments: The cervical spine (upper part of the spine in the neck) is the region of focus when spinal manipulation is used for treating cervicogenic headaches. Gentle neck and occiput adjustment help to relieve misalignment and allowing the nerves to supply the muscles around the head.
- Deep neck flexion exercises: These exercises involve actively moving your muscles and joints under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It is important to do these exercises under the supervision of professionals to avoid any injury.
- Trigger point release: direct pressure to points that refer to pain to the front of the head. Ultimately the goal is to keep suboccipital muscles relaxed. This tension is commonly found in people with high levels of stress.
Migraines are characterized by throbbing, pulsating pain on one side of the head, as well as other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. There are effective medications that can be used for migraine prevention or for acute migraine episodes. Some procedures, such as pain injections, have also been successful.
Options for migraines include:
- Spinal manipulation: The cervical spine (upper part of the spine in the neck) is the region of focus when spinal manipulation is used for treating cervicogenic headaches.
- Facial bone adjustment: adjusting bones such as frontal (forehead), zygomatic (cheekbones), and temporal (temples) helps to keep the good alignment in the skull allowing correct pressure in the facial and sphenoid sinuses.
- Trigger point release: release pressure in trigger points that may be present in the face and occiput may help in alleviating pressure during a migraine attack.
Suboccipital active trigger points (TrPs) and head forward posture (FHP) was associated with chronic tension-type headaches (CTTH). CCTH subjects with active TrPs reported a greater headache intensity and frequency than those with latent TrPs. The degree of FHP correlated positively with headache duration, headache frequency, and the presence of suboccipital active TrPs.
- Keeping a diary: is very important to find out the triggers. There are smartphone apps and other free diary resources which can help you keep track of your triggers.
Hemiplegic migraine: the most severe type of migraine, that can present itself with symptoms mimicking stroke. For that reason, it should be investigated and medically diagnosed.