Headaches Are Common But NOT Normal

Headaches aren’t normal, but since they are extremely common in our society, many people mistakenly believe they are. Nearly everyone has an occasional headache, but the frequency for some people may surprise you. About 15% of our population experiences a headache at least once per month, but some estimates show that up to 5% of adults have a headache every – or nearly every – day. This represents many people living with constant, debilitating pain. Due to this fact, headaches are not surprisingly one of the most common causes of disability. They are also one of the top reasons for visiting a doctor. More than 250 million work days are lost each year due to headaches at a cost of 25 billion dollars per year. Although headaches affect the entire population, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from headaches.

chiropractors for headaches in montgomery county paSome people estimate that there are over 100 different types of headaches, and each type is categorized as either primary or secondary. Primary headaches are recurrent headaches that are not caused by underlying disease or structural problems. 90% of headaches are primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by some underlying disease or condition. Tension headaches and migraine headaches are by far the most common types of headaches, but other types such as cluster headaches and sinus headaches are important.

Just as there are many different types of headaches, there are also many causes of headaches. The scary thing is that research shows that only 10 percent of headaches have a definitive etiology or cause. Unfortunately, we have a healthcare delivery system that tends to focus on symptoms and effects rather than getting to the root cause of the problem. Every headache is just an effect with an underlying cause. Some potential causes include changes in pressure due to weather changes, fatigue and lack of sleep, sensory stress (i.e. light and sound), food sensitivity, medications, postural stress, hormonal changes, and other problems such as chronic eye strain, high blood pressure and improper diet. In rare cases, headaches can be attributed to more serious conditions such as brain tumors, stroke, meningitis or diabetes.

Getting relief from pain is great, but better than covering up the pain is finding out why you are experiencing the pain in the first place and correcting that. Even though there are many causes or factors that may contribute to the development of headaches, there are many actions that you can take to alleviate or avoid headaches. First would be to address stress. Stress activates our sympathetic, or fight-or-flight, nervous system. This part of the nervous system is housed in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. When we are in a stressful situation, it kicks into gear. Short-term use of the sympathetic nervous system is beneficial to help us fight off a bear or get our project done before a big deadline at work. However, after the stressful situation is over, we are supposed to turn the sympathetics off. This doesn’t occur in our busy lives and our sympathetic nervous system is chronically “on.” Sustained sympathetic tone increases our blood pressure and tenses our muscles, which both can contribute to headaches. Turning the sympathetic nervous system off can be very beneficial and can be achieved by meditating, deep breathing exercises, getting adjusted, and more.

Stretching is also helpful in alleviating or preventing headaches. Many times, due to posture, stress, sitting at a desk all day, etc., the muscles in our neck, in our shoulders, in between our shoulder blades, and at the base of our skull are very tight and tense. Four basic stretches can be done to loosen these muscles. First is the chin tuck. This is where you draw your chin straight back so that your ear lines up with your shoulder. Second is cervical extension. Lean your head backward so that you are looking up toward the ceiling. With your head all the way back, gently apply pressure upward on the bottom of your chin lifting it toward the ceiling. The third stretch is the shoulder roll. Raise both shoulders up toward your ears, then pull them back, then drop them down before returning them to the neutral position. You can perform a forward shoulder roll too. Finally, try a trapezius stretch. Our traps are notorious for holding tension and developing trigger points. Gently pull your left ear toward your left shoulder. You can slightly drop your right shoulder downward to get more of a stretch. Repeat to the other side.

Additional actions that may help reduce headaches revolve around nutrition, hydration, and screen time. Reducing (or eliminating) inflammatory foods such as sugars, grains, dairy, and especially gluten can have a positive impact on headache symptoms. Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body. We give it a name based on what area hurts. In the joints, we call it arthritis. In the head, we call it a headache. Other foods or additives such as MSG and caffeine can also contribute to headache symptoms. Considering a detox to rid these system-irritating foods from your body can be greatly beneficial for your symptoms. Hydration is another important factor for headaches. Many people who are chronically dehydrated experience headaches. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day to allow your body to function to the best of its ability. The last suggestion would be to limit screen time. Eye strain can lead to headaches. It is smart to get your eyes checked to make sure you don’t need glasses or a change in prescription. In addition, staring at computers, phones, tablets, etc. can cause tension on your eyes. Consider reducing screen time, especially at night.

If you implement these suggestions and are still suffering from headaches, then schedule an appointment with us at Radiant Life Chiropractic. We have had great success with patients complaining of headaches in the past and would love the opportunity to evaluate you and see if we can help you get on the right track. Many of the services that we provide are extremely effective in helping reduce the pain and dysfunction caused by headaches. Headaches are a big issue in our society, but they don’t have to be a part of your life. You just need to figure out what is causing them and then you can fix it. Try reducing stress, stretching, and addressing potential nutritional issues. If you are still dealing with headaches, then let us help. We can specifically evaluate you and develop a personalized plan to get you the best results possible. Call 215-259-5100 to schedule an appointment to address your pain and get you moving toward true health!