What Is My Headache Trying to Tell Me?

Headaches are one of the most common neurological ailments that affect adults in America. More than 50% of adults are reported to have a headache every year with over 90% of adults reporting at least one headache during their lifetime. In spite of the overwhelming prevalence of this frustrating condition, many people are unaware of the root causes of their headaches. In this blog post, we are going to talk about common misconceptions about headaches, the most common source of headaches, and a simple solution to resolving this condition.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT IS

As human beings, we always seek to understand why something is happening. This leads many to search for a reason as to the origin of their headaches. Often the conclusion is that headaches are due to either external events such as weather and stress or lifestyle problems such as dehydration, poor diet, improper posture, or inadequate sleep. While all of these things are possible contributors and may even be the final trigger for a headache, the vast majority of the time they are not the direct cause of the headache itself; they simply contribute to the onset and severity of the headache. However, something must still be at the root of these headaches. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that there is no such thing as a “normal headache.” Every time we experience a headache, it is because our brain is trying to tell us that something is wrong. Pain is the body’s primary method of communication. When we experience pain we must not ignore it, but rather try to understand the reason behind WHY the pain is there.

THE REAL REASON FOR HEADACHES

According to a study published in the Journal of Canadian Family Physicians, as many as up to 70% of all headaches are caused by problems in the cervical spine. The research shows that the vast majority of all headaches originate in the neck. This leads us to understand that the cervical spine must not be overlooked when it comes to the treatment and management of headaches. In fact, it should likely be the primary source of investigation when trying to discover the origin of this debilitating condition.

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Common problems in the cervical spine:

      • When the bones in the spine are misaligned, abnormal pressures are placed on the joints leading to improper weight bearing and stress on the joints. These abnormal joint mechanics cause inflammation and irritation to the nerves in the cervical spine.

      • Irritation to the nerves that have direct relationships with the connective fibers around the joints can lead to pain commonly described as “pinching a nerve.” This occurs upon performing normal head and neck motion with abnormal joint biomechanics. This pain can travel to the head and cause a headache.

      • Irritation to the trigeminal nerve, which is found in the brainstem and beginning of the spinal cord, is frequently responsible for the painful feeling of pressure behind the eye during a headache. This nerve carries sensory information to the face and can also lead to watering and swelling of the eyes during an especially bad headache. The trigeminal nerve is frequently irritated by misalignments of the first or second bone in the neck.

      • When the cervical muscles are irritated, this causes them to go into spasm. The pain created by this spasm can refer pain to the head and puts additional pressure on the nerves, causing them to be irritable and incredibly sensitive.

      • Damage to cervical discs due to degeneration and breakdown of the cervical spine can also cause further irritation and inflammation and this problem is frequently believed to be untreatable. However, with appropriate management this condition can often be improved.

WHAT CAN I DO TO GET RID OF MY HEADACHES?

So what is to be done about headaches? If we are to reduce the prevalence of headaches, we must focus on the source of them. The most common reason for cervical spine dysfunction is a misalignment in the upper portion of the cervical spine. This area of the spine is the most susceptible to injury and has the closest relationship with the nerves and muscles in the neck. Within the chiropractic profession, there are sub-specialists who primarily focus on this region of the spine. These practitioners are known as upper cervical chiropractors. An upper cervical chiropractor precisely analyzes the changes that have taken place at this critical region of the spine. They take highly specialized images that allow them to accurately measure exactly how these bones have shifted from their proper positions. Once this information has been attained, an upper cervical doctor can administer a gentle and precise correction to this area of the spine, restoring proper alignment without the need for a lot of force. This will eliminate the irritation to both the trigeminal nerve and the surrounding muscles, as well as other neurological structures that have become irritated by the misalignment. By restoring proper alignment to the upper cervical spine the body is able to function optimally again, reducing the frequency and intensity of any further headaches.

To find an upper cervical practitioner near you, please visit https://uppercervicalawareness.com/find-a-doctor/. If you would like to receive a complimentary consultation with our upper cervical doctor to learn more about this form of care and how we may help you, please call our office at (757) 208-7108.