Headaches arising from the neck (Cervicogenic Headaches)

Most of us have suffered from a headache, but not everyone has experienced the kind of headache that affects their ability to get on with day-to-day life or has been persistent for an extended period of time.

Cervicogenic headaches are certain types of headache that are related to the neck. Poor posture, decreased activity levels, disrupted sleep patterns, increased emotional stress are some of the things that may cause irritation to the soft tissues, or the bony structures in the cervical spine (your neck). Pain typically starts from the neck/base of the skull and sometimes refers up and over to the front or behind the eyes. Tension, tightness or “trigger points” in the upper trapezius, and neck muscles are often found.

Taking painkillers may help mask your pain, but we can help find the root cause. Chiropractic treatment and acupuncture (dry needling), can help you move towards a life where headaches are not debilitating you on a daily basis. Time will be taken to assess your lifestyle and investigate a whole range of other possible reasons such as emotional and nutritional factors that could also be contributing to your headaches. Appropriate recommendations will be made to allow you to get the best response from the treatment process.

Migraines

Migraines are commonly described as episodes of disabling pain with headache, feeling or being sick, and sensitivity to normal levels of light and sounds. Usually the head pain is one-sided, pulsating, and may worsen with physical activity. They can last from a few hours to a few days. On average they can happen once or twice a month- for some people they have one a week, for others- one a year and this can happen throughout their lifetime.

Although a significant number of people suffer from migraines, it’s still not known why migraines occur. What is known is that a mechanism deep in the brain causes release of inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head and this results in pain.

Migraines can occur with aura (neurological symptoms mainly visual disturbances) or without aura. Migraines without aura are the most common type of migraine, accounting for 70-90% of attacks.

Some of the more common triggers related to the onset of a migraine attack are listed below:

  • Dehydration
  • Foods (commonly;caffeine chocolate, cheese, nitrates, nuts, wine and many more)
  • Low blood sugar- if levels drop too low, the brain is the one of the first organs to be affected. This can be caused by skipping meals, eating high-sugar foods, or even strict dieting.
  • Hormonal changes (associations with the menstrual cycle)
  • after periods of stress (commonly occurs over the weekend/holidays)
  • Some medications (including vasodilators)
  • A lack of sleep or changes in sleeping habits
  • Tension in the neck (especially the upper part of the neck
For patients suffering with migraines regularly, identification of a specific trigger is essential in the management of the problem. Behavioural or lifestyle changes play an important part in the treatment and where necessary modifications need to be made. Nutritional and herbal supplements such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D have also been reported to be useful in the treatment of migraine.

Unfortunately chiropractic treatment will not cure your migraines because of the genetics and environmental factors that are thought to play a role. However, chiropractic treatment has been shown to help reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks, especially the common migraine. Treatment will help relieve any restricted motion in the neck, muscle tension in the neck, upper back and shoulders that may be influencing the occurrence of both migraine and tension headaches.

Although rare, headaches can occasionally be linked or associated to more serious pathology. Herts Family Chiropractic have the knowledge and expertise to diagnose the cause of a headache and will always organise an onward referral if necessary or appropriate.

If you are unsure if chiropractic is a suitable treatment for your headaches or migraines, please call 07947678375 and I will be happy to discuss this further.