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.
Headache sufferers spend over $2 billion on over the counter medications with poor outcomes. Headaches cost American businesses approximately 150 million days of lost productivity adding up to $12 billion in direct or indirect costs. Around 10% of emergency department visits each year are for headaches. Headaches are the seventh leading cause of ambulatory care accounting for over 18.3 million outpatient visits per year.
What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.
Research shows that spinal adjustments – the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic – is an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.
A report released in 2001 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 headache than a commonly prescribed medication.
The Foundation for Chiropractic Education announced the evidence reports showed among the many options for care available, chiropractic was shown to have superior results. Compared to amitriptyline use, chiropractic had favorable results for patients with tension-type headaches.
Compared to various soft tissue procedures, chiropractic care produced sustained improvement in headache frequency and severity for patients with cervicogenic (from the neck) headaches.
Compared to other physical treatment methods (physiotherapy, acupuncture, and electrical stimulation) the evidence supporting chiropractic appears to be more robust.
Also, a 1995 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches and that those who ceased chiropractic treatment after four weeks experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in contrast with those patients who received a commonly prescribed medication.
“The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck,” says Dr. George B. McClelland, a doctor of chiropractic from Christiansburg, VA. “Today, 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 head to ache.”
What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?
Doctor’s of chiropractic may do one or more of the following if you suffer from a primary headache:
- Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your nervous system.
- Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet (to minimize triggers) and perhaps the addition of certain vitamins.
- Soft tissue techniques to decrease muscle tension and spasms.
- Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques. This advice should help to relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back.
“Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to help their patients in many ways – not just back pain,” says Dr. McClelland. “They know how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, and they can take steps to relieve those problems.”
Ultimately headaches are not due to a deficiency of medications in ones blood. The root cause must be determined to help correct the underlying condition. A detailed consultation and examination can ascertain a diagnosis to develop a treatment plan. In the physical exam, the doctor will observe your posture, range of motion, and physical condition, noting movement that has abnormal function or causes pain. The doctor will feel your spine, note its curvature and alignment, and feel for muscle spasm. If a neurological exam is warranted, the doctor may test your reflexes, muscle strength and sensory testing. Also, if needed, the Doctor may take x-rays and/or computerized muscle tests. Once all of the information is collected, a report of findings will be scheduled and delivered to you. The report of findings will discuss what is wrong, how it would be treated and how long will it take to resolve. If you qualify for conservative chiropractic care, recommendations for the appropriate adjustments and therapies will be provided and treatment will begin that day.