21 Jun Headaches
If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Headaches comprise the top three reasons why one goes to the doctor. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea. You can find explanations of all the different kinds of headaches and how to spot them at treatheadaches, as well as suggestions of solutions, but what do you normally 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. As a chiropractic neurologist, I have been successfully helping patients rid themselves of headaches, oftentimes in as little as one treatment. Research has demonstrated the value of manipulative therapy for a multitude of disorders including headaches. 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. As a neurologist, we have many diagnostic capabilities at our disposal, as well as adjunctive therapies, which have proven to work very well for migraineurs as well as headache sufferers who have yet to be diagnosed. Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems. The other ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern. Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. Many find themselves in fluorescent lighting and/or in front of a computer monitor all day. Many are on the telephone much of the day, which is very stressful on the muscles of the head, neck and shoulder. These scenarios are fuel for headaches. So what can you do? If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. Exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches, however, this will often aggravate headaches of migraineurs. As migraine headaches are vascular headaches, they should always be evaluated prior to entertaining any course of self-treatment. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches. Naturally, I would recommend all headache sufferers to come see us for an evaluation, as most will be helped in a short amount of time without requiring drug therapies, which can often have deleterious side effects and consequences. You will be referred for these types of therapies if felt to be warranted to be used as an alternative course of care, although this is certainly not the norm but rather the minority. The vast majority of our headache patients share a common conclusion; they invariably wish that they had come in to see us sooner and avoided the years of unnecessary suffering.
The topic of headaches is vast as there are many causes as well as types of headaches, causing most doctors to shudder at the mere presentation of a headache patient. Nonetheless, there remains hope for many with proper diagnosis and treatment. Lets start by discussing the most common and least harmful type, stress headache. This is often associated with tightness, which is band like around the head and often into the neck. These are often alleviated with stress reduction and increase in exercise. The more chronic type would be best managed with treatment. Headaches that have a throbbing component are typically migrainous headaches. Migraine sufferers typically know when they are getting a headache as they get an aura, (seeing wavy lines, stars, etc.) just prior to the headache. As this is a serious medical condition, individuals with these types of headaches should always seek care. Many will respond favorably to non-drug treatments. Those who do not would be candidates for drug therapies. Similarly, individuals often have headaches associated with high blood pressure. You should have your blood pressure checked routinely when visiting a doctor of any type. If you do not frequent your doctor, most shopping centers now have free pressure monitors that you can use. Units for purchase are also readily available and inexpensive, especially in consideration of the preponderance of high blood pressure and the costs of managing it compared to prevention. HBP will typically respond well to weight loss and exercise, however, if you already have HBP, you should work with a doctor regarding an appropriate exercise regimen as overexertion with HBP can be equally as dangerous. Many individuals with severe headaches assume inappropriately that their headache must be the result of a tumor, although in realty, the vast majority of severe headaches are not related to tumors, which will rarely cause headache pain if at all. Although there are many other types of headaches, these are the most common. Our office has a very high success rate treating these types of headaches without necessitating the use of drug therapies. There is also much more detailed information on headaches available on my website which is listed below.