Migraines and tension headaches are the most common recurrent primary headaches in the world. So, it is no surprise that one in five patients in a chiropractor’s office presents with one of these two complaints.
If you suffer from frequent or severe headaches, you know they can be a slight inconvenience or completely debilitating. You, or someone in your family, may need to isolate themselves in a quiet bedroom and in total darkness to find relief. Some people can spend hours to days in these relief scenarios.
Although prescription drugs have shown mild to moderate success in dealing with headaches, many patients today like the idea of starting with a non-drug therapy approach.
Fortunately, doctors of chiropractic have many different therapies that fit into that spectrum. Being non-drug, non-surgery portal of entry healthcare providers – no referrals necessary – chiropractors have an advantage when dealing with a problem so many people face.
Coverage by insurance can be another reason to see a chiropractor. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), more than 80% of U.S. healthcare insurance plans include coverage for chiropractic care, although each plan may vary in what’s covered. Medicaid and Medicare also cover chiropractic treatments in most cases.
One of the umbrella terms chiropractors may use is called manual therapy. There are many therapies under that name, but they all include the healthcare provider, including doctors of chiropractic, manually treating the patient.
Research indicates that manual therapy has similar effects to some prescription drugs for types of headaches, such as tension headaches.
One of the hallmark treatments chiropractors use is spinal manipulative therapy (SMT). SMT has proven to be effective at reducing intensity levels with certain types of headaches. In a case involving a 14-year-old hockey athlete with post-concussion syndrome, SMT reduced the patient’s symptom levels by 50% within three days (4).
SMT has been used in multiple trials with headache patients with positive results (5). Chiropractors are also not limited to just performing SMT. Depending on their state licensure, Doctors of Chiropractic have multiple options for headache treatments.
Current evidence-based guidelines say that “there is a baseline of evidence to support chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, for the management of migraine and cervicogenic headaches.” Cervicogenic headaches are ones that usually start after neck movements.
One of the scariest things about headaches is the different types and the fact that they don’t discriminate on who gets one. From little kids to seniors, no one is immune to headaches.
1. Not all headaches result from trauma
It’s a common misconception about headaches: there must have been a previous head injury, Yes, you can definitely have headaches accompanying head trauma, but that is not always the case.
Many people experience headaches regularly and do not have a history of head trauma. On the other hand, you can still get headaches months after a head injury, such as with a post-concussive disorder.
2. There are different types of headaches
One way to begin finding relief is to keep a headache diary or journal. This will allow you to track the frequency and severity of your headaches. It may also help your chiropractor to know there is something specific that’s triggering your headaches.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and are often described to chiropractors as dull, mild to moderate pain…they feel like a tight band or vice around the head, often across the forehead. There may be associated pain in the scalp and neck and muscle tension. This muscle tension is typically the cause of the pain.
Tension headaches are often caused by physical or emotional stress, lack of sleep, poor posture and may be associated with depression and/or anxiety.
Sinus headache sufferers report that the pain is typically dull and achy in the sinus regions, behind the brow bone, and into their cheekbones. Some people may experience tooth pain along with it.
Chiropractors say this type of headache is frequently seen in people with colds, allergies, or sinus infections.
Cluster headache pain is described as sharp, severe, and located in and around one eye. They tend to be chronic and may last weeks or months, followed by remission.
Migraine headache pain may be intense and labeled as throbbing or pulsing. Migraine headaches may be felt on one side of the head. Because of the severity of the pain, there may be nausea and sensitivity to lights or sounds.
Doctors of chiropractic, thanks to their knowledge and skills in addressing injuries, conditions, and diseases of the neuro-musculoskeletal system, are an excellent first resource for conservative care options.
However, if you are experiencing the worst headache of your life, have speech or vision disturbances, are vomiting, or if the headache starts suddenly, is very severe, and is unlike any headache you have had, always call 911. Such headache pain symptoms can be indicators of more serious neurological issues.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC), founded in 1922, is a private, nonprofit, chiropractic and health sciences university in Overland Park, Kansas. The CUKC on-campus Chiropractic Health Center offers a natural course of healthcare, seeking to heal the body from within and not using prescription medicine.
Our Health Center is open to the public and treats patients from Kansas City’s 15-county metro area. Our mission is to provide next-level chiropractic care and solutions for a better, more productive life for our patients.