If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea. What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.
Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental issues (noises, lights, stress, etc.). About 3-5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems. Ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease processes. The headache itself is the primary concern.
The majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck. In today’s modern society, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your headache.
Here are a few things you can do at home to help with your headaches:
- If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in fromt of a compter, on a sewing machine, typing or heading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.
- Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.
- Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress and the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skill – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.
- Drink at least half your body weight in fluid ouces of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches. So for a 150 lb person, this would be 75 oz.
If you can’t manage your headaches on your own there are several different approaches we can use here at our office to help you find relief. Research has shown that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by Doctors of Chiropractic – can be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. A report released by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headaches than a commonly prescribed medication. Also, another study found that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches and those that ceased chiropractic treatment after four weeks experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in contrast with those patients who received a commonly prescribed medication.
Originally published in the April 16, 2011 issue of MailMax for Michigan’s Great Southwest