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Headache or Migraine

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Migraine headache
Tension headache

Who suffers from headaches?

Millions of people, the world over suffer from a headache from time to time. It is one of the most common reasons for a person to seek professional help. It has been estimated that at some time about 50 million Americans have suffered from headaches. Most of the time a headache is not a symptom of serious illness, but they can be quite debilitating and annoying, representing also a significant cause of absenteeism from work. If you suffer from headaches, it is important that the treatment you get for them is safe and reliable. It is most important not to worsen the symptoms by taking too much over the counter pain killers, which may have adverse side effects, one of the most common of which is headache caused by medicine taken to cure headache itself.

How can a chiropractor help?

Chiropractors have had considerable success treating the causes of headaches and in helping patients escape the vicious circle of taking too much medicine. The chiropractic adjustment, carried out by qualified and experienced professionals, is more efficient than many medicines at gradually reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches. Manipulation is particularly effective at treating stress or tension headache, and what is called cervicogenic headache. The chiropractor’s skill in treating spinal joint and muscle dysfunction, and often the temporo-mandibular joint, contributes to the lessening or elimination of mechanisms which stimulate headaches.

Since most headaches have a number of possible stimulating factors, it is virtually impossible to avoid every single headache. For example, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances and moments of increased stress, both physical and psychological can lead to headaches. However, the research indicates that a course of chiropractic treatments, followed by regular maintenance visits, decreases both the frequency and the intensity and duration of patient’s headaches.

More than 90% of headaches fall into the following three categories:

  1. tension or stress headache
  2. migraine headache
  3. cervicogenic headache

Patients suffering from tension headache (stimulated by stress) have more frequent attacks. Pain is normally light to moderate and often involves both sides of the head (see last figure on the right). The pain is often described as tightness or pressure and may feel like a band around the forehead.

Migraine headache on the other hand tends to give more intense and pulsating pain, mainly on one side of the head, but comes more rarely. Less people suffer from this type of headache; many more of them are women. Sometimes the pain may be preceded by an aura, a visual sign, and often other symptoms may accompany the headache, such as loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

Cervicogenic headache has it’s origins in the bio-mechanics of the muscles and joints of the vertebral column in the neck. Many times this type not diagnosed, possibly since the classification of headaches into true separate kinds is somewhat arbitrary. People may already realize that they have had a past neck trauma, or have an occupation which requires awkward positioning of the neck for long periods. When a true dysfunction in the neck is found and corrected by a qualified chiropractor, headaches of this type often relent as well.

Sinusitis

You may awaken with a heavy head and tight throat. You may notice that you have a cold, or that the last cold has not gone away completely. You may just have a terrible headache which hurts even when you roll over in bed. The chances are that you are suffering from sinusitis. It is very common in people between 18 and 45 years of age. The sinuses consist of 8 spaces in the skull bones, under the forehead, the cheek bones and behind the bridge of the nose. They are normally involved in breathing, but when they are inflamed they can fill up with mucus. This is a sticky elastic gel which helps to protect us from infection and toxins. Healthy sinuses are lined with mucus which warms and moistens the air as we breath in. By filtering the dust and toxins, they protect the nose, throat and lungs.

During the course of a normal cold, the inflammation may block the drainage canals for the sinuses, increasing the pressure within them. This pressure causes local pain, headache swelling of the ears and eyes and at times shivering, fever, vertigo, decreased appetite, avoidance of the light and also depression. (1)

Causes:

anything which irritates the mucus membranes, including:

  • Dust
  • Mould
  • Pollen
  • Virus and bacteria
  • Air conditioning, too hot, dry or too cold
  • Excess bone growth inside the nose
  • Nasal polyps
  • Facial trauma
  • Deviated nasal septum
  • Problems with the upper teeth
  • Extremely rarely tumors

The traditional medical approach

There are two main principle to this:

  1. Increase the drainage of the mucus
  2. Decongestants, antibiotics and antihistamines

Problems caused by medicines

Antihistamines and nasal sprays thicken and dry up the mucus, when the goal should be to dilute it.(2)
The sprays are overused, and should be limited to twice a day for a maximum of 4 days. Often patients continue to use the spray without realizing that it is actually prolonging the problem.(3)
In the end, when the medicine has not worked, doctors may advise surgical drainage.

The chiropractic approach to Sinusitis

Even though chiropractic does not specifically treat sinusitis, those who suffer from this painful disorder often find relief after treatment for other problems. Why is this? If the body is in good order the immune system works better and will give you more resistance to bacteria, viruses and dust, so that the sinuses drain better. This is particularly important, considering that chronic sinusitis has been associated with a lowered immunity.(4)
Chiropractic also lowers stress on the nervous system and the joints. This in turn allows free movement between the skull bones helping to permit uninterrupted drainage of the sinuses

Chiropractic and the Immune System

Many research papers have established the positive effects of chiropractic on the immune system. (5/6) Scientific research has demonstrated that treating the spine improves the efficiency of the immune system.(7/8/9), moreover, it has been shown that specific spinal manipulation can benefit sinusitis and other nasal problems. The relationship between the nervous system and the immune system appears to be more extensive than was once thought.

A recent piece of research demonstrated that white blood cells ( which have a role in protecting against infection), can be influenced by the nervous system, through a complex chain of neuro-transmitters. Modern scientific research is today confirming what chiropractors had already noticed and understood 100 years ago: that a well functioning neuro-musculo-articular system can help us to enjoy good health and notably increase resistance to various illnesses.

References

  • 1. Murphy, P. Upper respiratory tract infections. In A.M. Harvey et al. (eds.), The principles and practice of medicine (22nd ed.). East Norwalk, ct: Appleton & Lange, 1988,, p. 588.
  • 2. Ivker, R. Sinus survival. Littleton, CO : Whole Health Press, 1989.
  • 3. Lebo, C.P. Sinusitis self-defence. Bottom Line/Personal, Jan. 15, 1994, pp. 13-14.
  • 4. Shapiro, G.G. et al. Immunologic defects in patients with refractory sinusitis. Pediatrics, 1991, 87, pp. 311-316.
  • 5. Vora, G.D. & Bates, H.A. The effects of spinal manipulation on the immune system: A preliminary report. Journal of Chiropratic, 1980, 14, p. S103.
  • 6. Fidelibus, J. An overview of neuroimmunomodulation and a possible correlation with muscoloskeletal system function. JMPT, August 1989.
  • 7. Brennan, P. & Hondras, M. Priming of neutrophils for enhanced respiratory burst by manipulation of the thoracic spine. Proceedings of the 1989 International Conference on Spinal Manipulation, 1989, 10, pp. 160-163, Arlington, VA: FCER.
  • 8. Nansel, D:, Jansen, R. et al. Effects of cervical adjustments on lateral-flexion passive end-range asymmetry and on blood pressure heart rate and plasma catecholamine levels. JMPT, 1991, 14(8), p. 450.
  • 9. Brennan, P., Kokjohn, K. et al. Enhanced phagocytic cell respiratory burst induced by spinal manipulation. JMPT, 1991, 14(7), PP. 399-408.

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