A headache can often leave you down for the count and reaching for the stash inside your medicine cabinet.
Headaches can be caused by a number of factors. Many headaches can be traced to neck, jaw (TMJ) or cranial bone (head) misalignment causing stress to the nerves, which in turn affect blood flow.
When the bones of the spine or head lose their normal position or motion (spinal subluxation or spinal misalignment), the sensitive nerves and blood vessels to the head become compromised. When these delicate tissues are irritated, they can produce certain types of headaches.
The nerves of the neck, jaw or head when irritated can lead to head pain. Sometimes the pain can radiate into the face or eyes. These headaches can make it difficult to think clearly and function.
Misalignments of the spinal vertebrae can occur during the birth process, falls, sports activities, motor vehicle accidents, sudden injury to the jaw, head or neck area, bad posture, food reaction (food allergies), medication side effects, sinus problems or simply the stresses of daily living. Hence, It is very common for headache and/or migraine headache sufferers to experience neck pain and stiffness.
Nerve irritation is the leading cause of headache pain for many sufferers. One study, conducted at the University of Maryland, found a connection between muscle tension at the base of the neck and headaches. Muscle contractions interfere with the sensitive fibers at the base of the neck that lead to the brain and spinal cord. This muscle tension often plays a contributing factor to headache pain. Another study conducted by Dr. Wright found that the vast majority of migraine headache sufferers has misalignments of the spinal vertebrae (subluxation) in the neck that was placing pressure on the spinal nerves.
Instead of popping a pill, try these natural cures to relieve your headaches. Their efficacy proves that you can find relief outside of a bottle.
Regularly taking some of the most popular painkillers on the market [paracetamol, aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen six or seven days per week over a two-year period] is linked to a much greater risk of stroke and heart attack from higher blood pressure, according to research from a large American study.
Powerful drugs can numb your nervous system so the pain doesn’t register. While these approaches may be convenient, they can cause adverse effects and kidney or liver damage. Worse, they don’t correct the underlying cause of the headache.
When Kevin Charlton was prescribed a new migraine drug, he thought it was the answer to his prayers.
‘I’d been having terrible migraines for years, and had never found any medicine that worked,’ says Kevin, a creative director from Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
‘Suddenly, I was given something that did. It was absolutely amazing.’
Kevin had been prescribed eletriptan, one of seven triptan drugs available to treat migraines. Triptans work by reducing the pain information the brain receives.
‘I called it my miracle cure,’ says Kevin, 29. ‘Normally, it got rid of the migraine within an hour. It wasn’t just that it stopped the excruciating pain and vomiting — I could live a normal life again.’
It was so effective that he began taking eletriptan several times a week. But, soon, he started to have a migraine every day — so he stopped taking eletriptan.
When he started using the drug four years ago, he had an average of six migraines a month. By the time he stopped, this had risen to 15.
What Kevin didn’t realise was that his ‘miracle’ drug had made his condition even worse. He is one of the 600,000 Britons who suffer from a medication-overuse headache or migraine.
The more a drug is taken, the more resistant the body becomes to it, so the sufferer needs to take more of it. When the medication wears off, they can get a withdrawal reaction — known as a ‘rebound’ headache or migraine — prompting them to take more medication.
While the dangers of taking too many over-the-counter painkillers are quite well known, few people realise that overdosing on prescribed migraine medication can cause exactly the same problem.
In fact, triptans are the worst culprit — they bring on rebound headaches the fastest. But there are no warnings on the drug information leaflets.
Some headaches are so painful, however, that it may seem that something is very wrong inside the head. A person may present to the medical doctor seeking an explanation of the cause of the headache. Many medical doctors order expensive tests such as MRI or CT scans of the brain to try to visualize the cause of the headache. It has been reported that only one in 11,200 patients with headache have a problem that shows up on these types of tests. It is surprising, then, to note that between one-quarter to one-third of headache sufferers have had a CT or MRI scan. Most often the doctor and/or patient are searching for answers in the wrong direction.
One study examined chiropractic treatment for different types of headaches, including migraines. The study combined the results of 22 studies, which had more than 2,600 patients total. The studies show that chiropractic treatment may serve as a good preventive treatment for migraines.
Another trial found that 22 percent of people who had chiropractic treatment saw the number of attacks drop 90 percent. In that same study, 49 percent said they had a significant reduction in pain intensity.
One study of 127 migraine sufferers in Australia found that those that received chiropractic treatment had fewer attacks and needed to take less medication. The 1999 study found that more than 80 percent of the patients blamed stress for leading to their migraine attacks. Therefore researchers believe chiropractic care might physically help reduce the body’s reaction to stress.
Seventy-two per cent of migraine sufferers in a clinical trial experienced either ‘substantial’ or ‘noticeable’ improvement after a period of chiropractic treatment, defying historical skepticism of chiropractics by some medical practitioners.
The randomised clinical trial was undertaken by Dr Peter Tuchin, a chiropractor for the past 20 years, as part of his recently-completed PhD thesis at Macquarie University.
“Around 22 per cent [of patients] had substantial reduction – which means that more than 60 percent of their symptoms reduced during the course of the treatment,” Tuchin says. “What makes this a really strong result is that this was a really chronic group – the average length of time they’d had migraines was 18 years. To get a change of that sort of magnitude in a really chronic group was quite amazing.
“Another 50 per cent had quite noticeable improvement. They either found that the frequency of the migraines was less, the length of time they had them was less or that they didn’t need to use their medications as much. This last result is very significant because some of the migraine medications are very strong drugs which have lots of side effects. Some of the migraine medications also have the problem of giving instant relief to the migraine, but creating another ‘rebound migraine’ the next day.”