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Headaches or Migraines

Women lateral view head only 72pdi (002)Many clients consult us having suffered with headaches or migraines for a long period of time. These symptoms can be painful, annoying and sometimes extremely debilitating. If you are a headache or migraine sufferer you understand all too well how the discomfort can affect your life.

Great News if you Suffer with Headaches or Migraines

Many clients consult us for headaches and migraines and we can help most achieve results. Some headache sufferers have near 100% resolution and others experience headaches less often or find the headaches are less intense. Call us and we will endeavour to find answers for you.

Achieving a Great Outcome

Headaches are almost always caused by more than one factor which is why finding results is elusive for many. Chiropractic care can be so effective because finding which common causes of headaches apply to a client and helping to improve them is a key feature of the chiropractic approach. This is because the pain associated with headaches is commonly referred from elsewhere e.g. the neck. A thorough chiropractic examination to assess joint injury, posture, range of motion, nerve function, proprioceptive feedback and a range of other investigations to see how the body functions, allows us to get excellent outcomes. By repairing the obvious common causes first we often see good improvement.

Why not take action today and start to feel well again?

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Causes and Types of Headaches

Women lateral viewIf you have already researched headaches or consulted a professional, you will have noticed that headaches are often named after the symptom that a client might experience, where they are located or a general name. For example:

  • Migraine
  • Cluster headaches
  • Hormonal headaches
  • Sub-occipital headaches
  • Supra-orbital headaches
  • Post-ejaculatory headaches
  • Sinus headaches
  • Weekend headaches

These descriptive names often do not let us know what has gone wrong within the body and just like injuries elsewhere in the body, the cause may not be where the pain is found. The pain can often be referred from another area. As a result headaches join a long list of health problems where the symptoms do not always offer information about the cause. Other examples include tooth pain, chest pain, sciatica, high temperature, dizziness, tinnitus, tiredness, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and many more. There are many things that can contribute to headaches. For a detailed table please see below. (Causes of Headaches and Migraines). Click here to see a list of common headache causes.

What are Headaches and Migraines?

Headache is a general word to describe aspects of pain in the head, neck or face. Pain is caused by a ‘pain generator’ such as inflammation, nerve irritation or muscle spasm. In some cases the pain generator will produce a symptom that is best described as an ache, throbbing or sensitivity, whereas at other times it is a pain that we might rate as 6 or 8 out of 10. It is often necessary to go to bed to lower the stimulation and help find some relief. Migraines are similar and may or may not involve the pain generator but classically include a ‘prodrome’, some kind of visual change, and can be debilitating. IMPORTANT: If the cause of the pain generator can be identified then most headaches can often be treated, reduced or cured altogether. This is a key part of the chiropractic examination together with measuring how the body functions. By discovering what it is about a client’s structure that does not function properly we have identified the second part of the headache mystery. Knowing what causes the pain and why the body is not healing is key to long term resolution and is much better than short term pain relief.

Did You Know?

  • Headaches are really just a pain in the head. What sets them apart from pain elsewhere is that headaches can be caused by one of a large number of factors or can be a combination of several underlying causes. Chiropractors are uniquely placed to identify which underlying problems contribute to the headache and help resolve them.
  • As your main senses of vision, hearing, taste, smell and other neurological processes (such as balance) are contained within the head, headaches can have a greater effect on a person than pain elsewhere. Concentration, mood, sleep and even cognitive processes such as creativity can all be affected.

What is the difference between headaches and migraines?

  • Headaches and migraines can be similar in many ways. Headaches have a process, injury, disease or dysfunction that creates a pain mechanism within the head. This pain mechanism is either inflammation, muscle spasm or nerve irritation.
  • Migraines are similar but affect the neurological processes differently. They may or may not have a pain aspect but tend to have a powerful influence on neural function. Classic migraines have ‘prodromes’ and/or ‘auras’ which are visual in some way. The migraine effect can be very powerful and results in profound changes to the body, typically involving light or noise sensitivity, nausea or sickness, increased toilet function, irritability, depression, cravings, fatigue and can even change the ability to speak in a coherent way.
  • Whilst theories exist about what causes migraines such as change to blood flow, neurological overloading and toxin build-up, what is certain is that each individual is different. This means one of the most reliable approaches to reducing migraine frequency or severity is to determine which possible causes of migraines are present for each client and work to correct them. This is achieved through a thorough examination and history and allows a chiropractor to identify the best approach to take for each person.

What Causes Your Headaches or Migraines?

Causes of Headaches and Migraines
Physical Changes Dietary, Chemical and Toxins Diseases Other Factors
Spinal involvement (restriction that irritates the nerves)

  • Cervicogenic headaches are thought to be amongst the most common cause of headaches (many causes of problems here and several of the headache types below are part of this category).
  • Sub-occipital headaches are somewhat different and are where the muscles under the skull tighten and refer pain to the head and neck (linked to stress, computer use, driving and phone use)
  • Cervico-thoracic junction is where the neck ends and the thoracic spine begins. This area carries heavy load from the arms and shoulder, protects and provides nerve supply to the arms and is where the upper ribs begin. (Structural changes associated to computer use, driving and mobile phone use this area is usually involved).
  • The lower back and pelvis. This area has an important role neurologically because it is the pelvis and lower back that form a supportive base for the whole of the spine. If this area has problems, that include mobility and alignment, the nerves within the pelvis can provide false information to the brain about movement and posture resulting in the poor control of muscle firing and muscle balance in the whole spine. This ‘proprioceptive failure’ results in a muscle tone problem which can lead to further imbalance in the spine; headaches can result.
Intolerance to food or chemicals is where the body reacts to an active ingredient negatively. By effecting the way the body functions, pain can be generated e.g. sulfates in wine, cheese or ham. Some people will react with any amounts of the chemical where some are fine up to a point, only reacting past a threshold.Allergies to food or chemicals is where the body reacts by producing an immune response. This can trigger headaches or migraines. Examples of this include allergies to dairy or gluten. Diseases. There can be a number of very serious or fatal diseases that cause headaches. If headaches persist for a period of time you should consult a healthcare professional such as a chiropractor or your GP. These conditions are rare but could be fatal or result in life changing injury.These might include:

  • Tumours
  • Aneurysm (bleeding in the brain with or without trauma)
  • Stroke
  • Meningitis
  • Sepsis
  • Injury following trauma
Sinus headaches can be linked to ear and eye headaches but involve infection or congestion in the back of the nose, sinuses or the eustachian tube. These headaches can be linked to polyp growth, infection or cranial issues and can be part of several issues resulting in headaches. Chiropractic care can be helpful with sinus problems.
Pelvic and lumbar spine injury. The fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord can pool, become stagnant and aggravate the central nervous system, resulting in headaches and migraine. This can occur after lower back injury, epidurals or spinal blocks. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. The elderly are often at risk due to the fear that drinking fluids will increase their need for the toilet. Hormonal Issues such as diabetes, thyroid complaints, menstrual events, menopause, pituitary failure and others can have a powerful effect the amount and frequency of headaches. Ear and Eye changes such as inaccurate optical prescriptions, build up of ear wax, infection and other complications such as types of tinnitus and Meniere’s disease can be involved.
Postural change such as forward head posture, scoliosis, a low shoulder, hyper extension of the lumbar spine or rounded shoulders. The head weighs as much as a bowling ball; holding it in a poor position will result in an increase in strain in the neck and shoulders. These problems usual occur when using computers, tablets, phones or driving.
Toxins. Chemical exposure such as industrial chemicals, perfumes, solvents, concentration of carbon dioxide or lowered oxygen levels, gas leaks and other chemical aggravating factors.
Cardiovascular Issues such as high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation and can be an indication of changes to the health of the blood vessels within the neck and brain. If you suffer from a sudden unexplained headache which might be described as the worst headache you have experienced you must seek urgent medical advice such as your local A&E department. Family History can be involved. Whilst this can be part of a clear pattern it is not known why these headaches occur.
Cranial Faults occur when the bones of the skull no longer articulate (move and bend) in a smooth and fluid way. The skull, whilst a large boney structure, is actually made up of a number of bones positioned in a complex 3D jigsaw puzzle. Housed within this structure is the brain, the brain coating, thick protective ligament layers (dura) and the CSF fluid that protects and bathes the brain. Importantly vital nerves (cranial nerves) that supply the head and neck with sensory supply, weave their way through small holes and gaps between the bones. The holes (foramen) can become congested if the bones that surround them become restricted or if there is torsional forces placed on them or the ligament dura. These important cranial nerves, if irritated, can result in many symptoms of which head pain, headaches and migraines are included. Supplements can help. Certain supplements such as magnesium are know to have a beneficial effect. This leads to the conclusion that an absence of certain minerals is a key factor in headaches and migraines. Infection can result in headaches. These are usually short-term events such as fever or other forms of general infection such as respiratory tract infections or the flu. There are other types of infection such as sepsis and meningitis that are serious, produce headaches and are often accompanied with lethargy, changes to skin colour and high temperature. Be aware that the symptoms for these conditions vary from person to person and professional advice should be sought if you have concerns. Symptoms for children differ and professional advice should be sought if you are unsure. Drug Reaction or overuse of headache medication is a common cause of headaches
Temporomandibular Joint Disfunction (TMJ) The TMJ is connected to the skull (temporal bone) with a complex joint that can result in a variety of complex problems. The muscles and joint capsule, which has connections to other bones of the skull and the spine, can have changes relating to muscle tone, muscle health or even infection. The TMJ can be damaged as a result of dental issues, facial trauma, infection, injury associated with biting and has a strong link to stress and psychological tension. Many clients report TMJ problems with unknown origin. Oxygen levels in the blood are known to have an effect on headaches and migraines. Oxygen therapy has been used to successfully help chronic sufferers of headaches and migraine. Clients often say that taking a break from confined spaces and walking outside clears the head and reduces episodes. Trigeminal Neuralgia is an inflammation of the trigeminal nerve that exits the skull and supplies the face with sensory feedback. There are other cranial nerves (those that exit the skull directly from the brain without passing through the spinal cord) which might be involved in headaches.
Overuse syndrome is different. It occurs when a normal task is repeated so often that the body does not have time to heal or repair. Overuse of medication has been shown to create a down regulation of the chemical receptors in the body. This means that taking medication can in fact increase the frequency or intensity of some headaches.

Chiropractic Care Can Help

Mom and daughter laying in grassBy using a number of indicators such as where the pain is, whether it can be reproduced, neck motion, structural analysis, forward head carriage, when the headache comes on and many other factors, chiropractors can often determine the source of the headache. When chiropractic care is combined with dietary advice, exercises and other health changing tools, great results can be achieved. Many clients come with pain based issues that they have experienced for several years and are delighted to find that we can help them get better – permanently.

Call Today and Get your Life Back on Track

If you have had headaches for more than 1 week, or if the headaches come and go more often than once every month or so then call us on 01603 764777 or email at and we will begin looking after you.

I’ve been taking a career-break from work, due to health issues (diagnosed with M.E / Fibromyalgia and Chronic Migraine) & tried a Chiropractor almost as a last resort, when the break / my G.P / change of diet etc had made little difference. I’m very pleased the chiropractor I chose was ‘Inspired’! I would happily recommend them to anyone. It’s great how welcoming & friendly they are, but they are also very knowledgeable &, after just a couple of months of treatments from Dr Jonathan, I feel measurably better – I’m sleeping better, have more energy, fewer migraines & less pain in my neck / shoulders, which have always been problematic.

Rachel B

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