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Headaches & Migraines in Austin TX

Do you suffer from Headaches?  If so, you are not alone.  The World Health Organization estimates that 47% of human population has had headaches within the last year. The National Headache Foundation reports that 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches and 28 million of which suffer from Migraines. They also report that 20% of children and adolescents suffer from headaches.  So if you’re reading this looking for answers you are obviously not alone.  The intention of this article is to provide some understanding when it comes to what type of headache, the symptoms, causes, and most importantly natural ways to treat your headaches without drugs or even surgery.

Headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system. Headache is a painful and disabling feature of a small number of primary headache disorders namely migraine, tension-type headache, and cluster headaches. Headaches can also be caused by or occur secondarily to a long list of other conditions, for example medication overuse headache. There are approximately 150 diagnostic categories for headaches, but for the sake of this article we will focus on the most common ones we see in our office which also accounts for the majority of headaches reported.

Tension headaches are probably the most common that we see and account for over 70% of headaches reported.  They are a result of muscle tightness that typically originates in the neck.  This tension in the neck muscles is usually caused by normal everyday activities such as sitting at a workstation with poor ergonomics, improper sleeping habits, poor biomechanics when working out or lifting, and even emotional stress.  We have found that on x-rays of the neck in chronic tension headache sufferers, they have little to no curvature and/or their head has shifted forward in relation to their shoulders.  This puts more strain on the muscles of the neck (think of holding a bowling ball in front of you with arms extended versus holding it in close to your chest) and puts pressure on the delicate nerves and blood vessels that supply the scalp with sensory and functional information.  This leaves the individual more susceptible to tension headaches.  Chiropractic adjustments and massage are very effective in relieving symptoms naturally but a more effective long term correction decreases the susceptibility for good.  We have effectively been able return these patients to a more normalized structure and posture by returning their neck curve and re-positioning the head over the shoulders through remodeling exercises, remodeling traction and mirror image chiropractic adjustments that are specific to each individual. We witness a significant reduction in frequency and severity of these tension type headaches, which corresponds to the improved structural alignment on the x-rays.

Migraine headaches tend to be more severe than tension headaches and can be accompanied by nausea; vomiting; a visual aura; sensitivity to light, noise, or odors; loss of appetite; and upset stomach or abdominal pain. When a child is having a migraine, he or she often looks pale, feels dizzy, and has blurred vision, fever, and upset stomach, along with the symptoms listed above.  The exact cause of migraines is currently unknown; however, the primary theory is that it is a neurovascular disorder related to the brainstem and neurovascular supply to the head which is derived from the neck. The brainstem is protected by the atlas, or the top bone of your spine, and therefore it has the most important job of the spine. Your brainstem is responsible for coordinating the autonomic nervous system including but not limited to hormone release and immune response, both of which can account for a significant percentage of migraines. When even mild physical pressure from the atlas occurs at the brainstem due to a misalignment of the atlas in relation to the vertebrae adjacent to it, this can affect all the autonomic functions of the body resulting in various symptoms including migraines.  We work to properly align the atlas, removing the physical stress to the brainstem area allowing the autonomic nervous system to work properly.  In some cases, we have also found that migraines can be a result of sensitivities one develops to a certain food, and therefore, it is your own immune system that causes the migraine as a response to the food you have an allergy or sensitivity to.  In addition to atlas alignment we may recommend a food allergy test that allows us to determine the foods that your body has developed antibodies to in which case we can eliminate those foods from your diet.  We treat migraines in our office with a combination of specific adjustments to the atlas and adjacent vertebrae focusing on returning them to the scientific normal alignment, diet modification based on results from food allergy testing, and addressing vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Cluster Headaches have been called “the suicide headache” and are extremely painful.  Even more severe than the dreaded migraine and generally the pain is on one side of the head.  Fortunately, the prevalence is very low affecting only 0.4% of the general population predominately effecting males with a 9:1 ratio.  The attacks come in a series or “cluster” and may last for weeks or even months. The frequency may range from 1 to 8 per day and last anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours.  These attacks are separated by periods of remission lasting months or years.  We can treat cluster headaches effectively using similar treatment methods as those described for tension and migraine headaches.

At Corrective Chiropractic, we look at this problem differently from what you may see in a drug advertisement. First, you need to have a diagnosis and determine the cause for your head pain. Once the cause is determined, then truly corrective action can take place. We pay special attention to how your spine moves and its posture, especially the neck region. Many different research studies have shown that spinal sprains and injuries can produce head pain. And randomized clinical trials have shown that when these spinal problems are addressed with adjustments, the headaches largely disappear…and without the side effects commonly seen with prescription medications.

Despite what the commercials say on TV, just diagnosing headache as a problem and driving to the drug store for a bottle of pills is not the solution. Yet many of us suffer from daily headaches for years and years and never think…is my headache being caused by a lack of these pills in my diet?

But every case is different. It’s impossible to know without an examination, if you have a spinal problem, and whether this is the cause for your headache. Our clinic always offers complimentary in-clinic and phone consultations with a certified Chiropractic Biophysics doctor.

If you are not getting your headaches under control and seemingly endless consumption of pills is not doing the trick, then why not take a different and more natural approach to your health.  Unfortunately there is no headache bone in your spine, or a button the chiropractor can push to make the headache go away. We generally find that once the spinal posture and motion is improved, the headaches go away on their own. It can take one visit or several, but we generally see improvements in a short period time.

By Jarrod Bagley, D.C.