Headaches

Overview

Every year, 90% of Americans will suffer from a headache. Nearly 10% of men and 12% of women will experience at least one headache each month. And 4% of the U.S. population suffers from headaches that occur more than 180 days a year. Needless to say, headaches have become a massive social and economic burden in our country.

Headaches are often a result of brain neurons becoming irritated. Some chemical culprits of headache include pesticides, cleaning products, artificial sweeteners (aspartame and Nutrasweet), and salt substitutes, such as MSG - daily components of the lives of millions.

Decreased oxygen levels in the body often cause painful headaches. Blood vessels in the brain expand when circulating blood carries insufficient oxygen. Delicate nerve fibers wrap around these expanded blood vessels, causing that all too familiar throbbing or pounding sensation. Circulating oxygen levels can be decreased for many reasons including stress, hormonal changes, shallow breathing, overexertion, blood loss during menses, or any number of medications.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Headaches come in many shapes and sizes. Cluster, tension, and sinus headaches each exhibit certain symptoms, but for simplicity we will address the more serious migraine variety.

Migraines are commonly associated with nausea, as well as light or sound sensitivity. Prodrome, a physical signal to an impending migraine can include appetite or mood changes, fatigue, balance problems, neck stiffness, and decreased alertness. One quarter of migraine sufferers will experience a pre-migraine visual disturbance called an aura. Although migraine duration varies among patients, a typical attack can persist for several hours or up to several days.

History and physical examinations are used to diagnose and categorize headaches. MRI, CT scans, or a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) may be used to help rule out other possible conditions if a severe headache persists.

Medical Treatment

Pharmaceuticals address both acute and preventive strategies but often have limited success, intolerable side effects, and contraindications with many drugs. Although triptans (sumatriptan, rizatriptan, eletriptan, and almotriptan) are the "gold standard" for migraines, they must be carefully monitored and avoided in patients with heart disease or stroke risk. Corticosteroids and powerfully addictive opioids account for other prescription strategies.

Ironically, taking too much medication for too long can lead to "medication overuse headache" which then leads to another self-perpetuating condition called "chronic daily headache." Yes, these are actual documented conditions.

Despite a massive array of drug options, many patients will never experience adequate symptom relief unless healthy lifestyle changes are made.

How We Can Help


As many as 25% of those seeking chiropractic care do so for the treatment of headaches.

Clearly, chiropractic management of headaches is unequaled in comparison to other forms of treatment. Chiropractors are musculoskeletal experts, so many headaches originating from the muscles and joints in the upper back and neck stand very little chance of remaining long-term.

Headaches with more complicated causes have also been successfully treated with chiropractic, nutrition, brain balancing, and the elimination of chemical toxins from one's diet and environment. At Divine Design, we have been able to help many patients obtain safe, effective, long-term relief from their headaches with this conservative, practical approach. If conservative treatment is unable to relieve long-term symptoms, there is a chance that more serious underlying pathology may exist. However, this is only the case in less than 1% of all headache scenarios.