Don’t Let Headaches Ruin Your Life

More than 2.7 million Canadians, or 1 in 12, have been diagnosed as suffering from migraines. And that number doesn’t include the millions that go undiagnosed or that suffer in silence, hoping that somehow the problem will go away on its own. Like most people, your first reaction may be to reach for that pain killer or tablet, there are also a range of treatments that can prevent and reduce the frequency and severity of future migraines and headaches. 

list of triggers for migraines with pictures

Understanding Headaches and Their Causes:

Headaches are an umbrella term for many different kinds of pain that have a host of triggers. These include stress, dehydration, constipation, insomnia, blood sugar changes, sounds or lights, alcohol, particularly red wine, changes in sleep or lack of sleep, poor posture, skipped meals and certain foods, such as processed meats that contain nitrates.Just as its important to track your triggers, there are also different types of headaches: Migraine, Cluster, Tension, or Cervicogenic. But what’s the difference between the four? 

Migraine Headaches:

  • Are a recurrent pain in the head
  • They can occur with or without an aura. An aura is a visual or smell-related symptom which could include flashes of light, vision loss or pins and needles.
  • Migraines occur in 17% of females and 6% of males
  • Migraines occur more often in Type A personalities who may also be prone to being high-strung and perfectionists

Migraine Causes:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Blood sugar changes
  • Allergies
  • Coffee, tea, alcohol

Tension Headaches

  • Most common type of headache
  • More common in females and young adults
  • Intermittent headache
  • Feels like there is band of pain around one’s head (like a head band)
  • Can progress to a migraine headache

 Tension Headache Causes

  • Emotional Stress
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Muscular Stress
  • Tightness/Stiffness in the neck
  • Lack of rest/sleep

Cervicogenic Headaches

  • Head pain originating from the spine
  • May radiate to the forehead, temples and ears
  • Similar to the tension headache
  • More likely in females
  •  Aggravated by certain neck movements or sustained awkward posture

 Cervicogenic Headache Causes

  • Previous neck trauma
  • Pain referral from upper cervical area (muscles, ligaments, joints and vertebral discs)

diagram of different types of headache showing sinus, tension, migraine, and cluster headaches

How Can I Stop Headaches from Ruining My Day?

Regardless of the cause, when you have a headache you want it to end! Considering the many causes of headaches, consulting your Chiropractor or medical doctor can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Remember that your headache presentation is unique to you and requires personalized care to attain optimal results. The great news is that there are options to help treat a variety of headaches and their symptoms!

Some headache treatment options for your headache include:

Chiropractic Headache Treatment

  • Perform a Chiropractic adjustment or spinal manipulation to improve spinal function and alleviate stress on one’s system
  • Research shows that spinal manipulation is an effective treatment option for migraine headaches,  tension headaches  and headaches that originate from the neck:
  • According to the Duke Study, spinal manipulation provides almost immediate improvement for headaches originating in the neck. It also had fewer side effects and provides longer lasting relief than commonly prescribed medication.
  • Helps relieve tension and irritation in the muscles and joints of the neck and upper back
  • Advice on stress management techniques
  • Advice on posture, ergonomics, exercises and relaxation techniques

Acupuncture Headache Treatments

Acupuncture  has been used to treat headaches for thousands of years and can be a great intervention for different kinds of headaches including migraines. In fact, research shows in one significant study that 5 sessions of acupuncture were more effective than pain killers for the majority of patients in treating chronic headache symptoms [Source: Reuters].

Different headaches are treated differently. A tension headache which has referral pain at the base of the skull due to tightness in the upper back and neck muscles can be treated by relaxing the muscles associated with that tension. A low-frequency current (1 Hz) is often added to the needles in order to relieve this tension and unblock any energy flow which has become stagnant. This technique is called electro-acupuncture.

An acute migraine is often associated with emotional stress and an uprising energy flow associated with the liver. In this case, this stress can unsettle the autonomic nervous system blocking its ability to put itself in a relaxed state. This type of imbalance is often tied to other health conditions such as problems in the digestive system, insomnia, hypertension, problems in the ear or eye and a lack of energy. Acupuncture helps to prevent migraines by balancing the autonomic nervous system and redirect the uprising liver energy. The acupuncture points for these are usually chosen on the forearms and lower legs to regulate channel energies or meridian qitogether with the head points that are affected.

A chronic migraine headache, however, could be a different story. As the pain of a chronic migraine is most commonly associated with dilation of the head’s blood vessels. This is due to long-term stagnant heat in the upper part of the body. Increasing circulation in the head area can often worsen a patient’s symptoms. Since the degree of chronic migraine headaches can vary depending on their severity, duration, and causes (hormonal, caffeine-related, muscle tension-related, or weakness of the body), a practitioner has to first diagnose the cause and set up an appropriate treatment protocol and plan. Since chronic migraines are associated with multiple causes and long-term illness, substantial care with long-term treatment is required. Often, an acupuncturist will combine muscle tension treatment with channel energy regulation such as normalizing one’s liver energy, clearing heat from the head, and calming the mind by putting needles on different acupressure points, or acupoints, on the extremities.

Massage Therapy Headache Treatment

Swedish Petrissage

  • Swedish Petrissage provides Therapeutic Massage manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue in the head and neck

Trigger Point Release 

  • Trigger Point Therapy for headaches involves a release technique of hyper-irritable nodules in the head and neck muscles

Myofascial Release 

Passive Stretching

  • Passive Stretching includes static stretching applied by the Massage Therapist to the neck muscles to lengthen the tissue

For specialized headache treatment in East Vancouver, come visit the team at Backs in Action Rehab and Wellness Centre today! Let’s get rid of your headache today and get you back into action!

Call us at 604-876-9977 or Book Online to schedule an appointment for your headache treatment.