Headaches & Migraines and Chiropractic Care

Headaches are very common symptom experienced by 9 out of 10 Americans. Studies show that 95% of all headaches come from subluxations (misalignments) in the cervical (neck) spine. As common as headaches are, they should not be considered “normal.” Headaches are a symptom of a problem, and vast majority of these problems occur because of pressure on the nerves in the neck (cervical spine).

Man with a headacheThe cervical spine consists of 7 vertebrae in the neck labeled C1 through C7. The nerves running through the upper half of your neck supply your brain, intracranial blood vessels, eyes, lacrimal gland, neck and facial muscles, parotid gland, pituitary gland, scalp, sinuses, hearing, and more. While the nerves in the lower half of your neck supply your neck and shoulder muscles, elbows, arms, esophagus, hands, wrists, tonsils, thyroid gland, and even some facets of your heart, lungs, and chest. When there is pressure on any of these nerves, headaches are just one of the symptoms you may experience.

Subluxations in the Cervical Spine (Neck) Cause Headaches

Subluxations (misalignments) or it the bones in the neck are not moving properly, they put pressure on the corresponding nerves — and that is the #1 cause of headaches. Only 10% of your nervous system experiences pain, so your vertebrae may have been out of alignment for awhile before you start experiencing headaches. If you allow the subluxations to go uncorrected, the headaches will continue, and you can start to experience other problems as well.

How to Subluxations Occur?

There are 3 stressors that can cause subluxations: physical, emotional, and/or chemical stress. Sometimes it is a combination of all 3 stressors that can lead to your headaches.

Examples of Physical Stress

  • Poor posture while standing or sitting
  • Sleeping with your neck in the wrong position
  • Texting or playing handheld video games

Examples of Emotional and Mental Stress

  • Work related stress
  • Financial stress
  • Relationship or family stress
  • Health stress
  • Worry
  • Lack of self esteem/value
  • Improper sleep or rest
  • Focusing on negative things

Examples of Chemical Stress

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Poor nutrition from eating a lot of processed foods, sugars, sodas, white flour, bad fats, and fried foods
  • Medications and drugs
  • Poor water quality
  • Poor air quality

What is a Migraine Headache?

Migraine headaches cause a pulsating pain or intense throbbing in one or more areas of the head. Often, nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound occur with migraines. Migraine attacks can cause severe pain for hours to days. Sometimes migraines are preceded by warning symptoms known as aura (See definition below in Stage 2). Migraine headaches usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood and have four stages of progression, though you may not experience all stages.

Stages and Symptoms of Migraine Headaches

Stage 1: Prodrome
One or two days before a migraine, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Food cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Stiff neck
  • Uncontrollable yawning

lady experiencing an aura migraine headacheStage 2: Aura
Aura may occur before or during migraine headaches. Auras are nervous system symptoms that are usually visual disturbances, however auras can also be touching sensations (sensory), speech (verbal) or movement (motor) interferences.

Examples of aura include:

  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles sensations in arms or legs
  • Speech or language problems (aphasia)

Less commonly, an aura may be associated with hemiplegic migraine (limb weakness). Most people do not experience aura during or prior to a migraine attack.

Stage 3: Migraine Attack
When untreated, a migraine usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours. The frequency with which headaches occur varies from person to person.

During a migraine, you may experience:

  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Pain that has a pulsating, throbbing quality
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds and sometimes smells
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Vision problems, such as blurred sight
  • Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting

Stage 4: Postdrome
The final phase, known as postdrome, occurs after a migraine attack. During this time you may feel drained and washed out, though some people report feeling mildly euphoric.

Causes of Migraine Headaches

The cause of migraine headaches is not completely understood, however there are a number of elements that appear to play a role, including environmental factors, genetics, changes in the brainstem (the transition between the brain and the spinal cord), serotonin which helps regulate pain signals within the nervous system. Many people understand they have certain triggers that exacerbate migraine attacks.

Migraine headache triggers

  • Hormonal changes in women.
  • Foods. Aged cheeses, salty foods and processed foods.
  • Fasting. Skipping meals or fasting also can trigger attacks.
  • Food additives. Aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Drinks. Alcohol, especially wine, and highly caffeinated beverages.
  • Stress
  • Sensory stimulation. Bright lights, sun glare, loud sounds or unusual smells.
  • Changes in wake-sleep pattern. Missing sleep or getting too much or even jet lag.
  • Physical factors. Intense physical exertion.
  • Environmental changes. A change of weather or barometric pressure.
    Medications. Oral contraceptives and vasodilators.

Risk factors for migraine headaches

  • Family history.
  • Age. Most people who have migraines have had their first migraine by 40 years old.
  • Sex. Women are three times more likely to have migraines.
  • Hormonal changes.

Chiropractic care is a safe treatment for headaches and migraines, and has no negative side effects.

Headaches and migraines are something we successfully treat on a daily basis without drugs or surgery. At Tuckahoe Family Chiropractic, our goal is to find the true underlying cause of your problems and the best way to correct your subluxations (misalignments), and restore the proper nerve system supply to the spine and up into your brain.

As mentioned previously in this article, headaches are not a normal way of life. You do not have to suffer needlessly from headaches. Many of our patients, after starting chiropractic care, are even able to stop taking prescriptions and over-the-counter medications for headaches. This saves their stomach and liver from side-effect damage caused by their medications and drugs.

Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to have significant impact and improvement on the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches. Studies have shown chiropractic to be as effective as taking certain types of medication to prevent the onset of migraines. Additionally, one study showed that 22% of those who received chiropractic adjustments reported more than a 90% reduction of attacks and 49% reported a significant reduction of the intensity of each migraine. During chiropractic care, your chiropractor will do an adjustment to relieve the pressure on the nervous system, allowing your nervous system to function the way it was designed. In addition, changes to your lifestyle, such as exercise and a better diet, can have a positive impact on your migraine attacks and also improve your health overall.

At Tuckahoe Family Chiropractic, we get great results for those suffering from headaches and migraines. Our first step will be to identify the root cause of your pain and work to correct the underlying cause. If you do not find and correct the source of your headaches or migraines, they will continue and may even get worse. Misalignments of the spinal bones (subluxations) put pressure on the nerves and can cause pain as well as interfere with the nervous system.

If you are experiencing headaches and migraines, and are looking for alternatives to medications, please contact Tuckahoe Family Chiropractic at 804.740.3434, and arrange for a consultation. If you know of others who can benefit from this article, please share and recommend this article.

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The contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Lombardozzi. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience and research of Dr. Lombardozzi and his staff. Dr. Lombardozzi recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.