The vast majority of people will experience headaches at some point in their lives, and many will have them on a fairly frequent basis. Migraines are less common, and some will never have them. Those who do get them, however, can experience one or more per month. Despite a common misperception, a migraine is more than a severe version of a simple headache. This is why many headache medicines don't work on migraines.
What most people call a "headache" is, more precisely, a tension headache. It can feel like a tight band has been placed around the head, but can also present itself as a dull ache that either centers itself behind the eyes or as a diffuse pain on one or both sides of the head. The physiology behind these headaches, according to chiropractors, is more complex than most would expect.
Chiropractors believe that physically, tension headaches start with problems – known in the field as subluxations - in the upper neck or back. These combine to cause certain small muscles to spasm. The spasm pulls on a tendon that goes up the neck into the skull, where it is attached to the membrane that covers the brain – the dura mater. While the brain itself has no pain nerves, the dura mater has plenty of them. When the tendon tugs on it, it begins to hurt. The pain can persist for anywhere from half an hour to days or even longer.
A migraine headache is far more intense than its tension-based cousin, but that isn't all that's different about one. Many people experience weird visual effects or other symptoms just before the pain comes on. This is known as the "migraine aura." Migraines also tend to bring on sensitivity to light and noise.
Though migraines are classed as "headaches," the pain is often sharp and pounding instead of being achy. It can last for hours or day and can be so bad that it causes vomiting.
Migraines are caused by the improper constriction and dilation of the blood vessels in the head. First, the vessels constrict, and then they suddenly expand. The decrease in blood flow during the constriction phase is believed to be responsible for the migraine aura. When the blood vessels expand again, there is a sudden increase in blood pressure inside the head. This is the cause of the pain.
Spinal adjustments, especially of the neck, are excellent treatments for headaches. When this area is properly aligned, the trigger for the muscle spasm behind tension headaches is removed. Treatment for spinal problems also helps to remove irritation that can trigger migraines.
Four muscles are known to play a part in causing tension headaches. We will also take steps to keep each of them from spasming. This is known as trigger point therapy.
For migraines, lifestyle changes are often recommended as well. This is because certain foods and postures are known to trigger them. Our nutritional programs can help with this aspect of treatment.
To get started on treatment for either headaches or migraines, call Hinze Chiropractic Center today at (402) 564-9447. We'll be glad to help you find relief.