Dickason Chiropractic Years of Service Badge

Headaches & Migraine Relief

Headeaches & Migraine Relief in Castle Rock, CO

Almost everyone has, at some point in his or her life, had a headache. Headaches can appear in a variety of forms. Some headache sufferers only feel pain in one part of their head or behind their eyes, while some people complain of a pounding sensation inside their entire head. Some people’s headaches even give them nausea and vomiting. The actual pain may be dull or sharp and may linger from a few minutes to a few days. Although only a small number of headaches have serious underlying causes, those that do require urgent medical attention.

Although headaches can be attributed to a wide variety of causes, such as drug reactions, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), tightness in the neck muscles, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure), stress and fatigue, the majority of recurring headaches are of two types: tension headaches (also called cervicogenic headaches) and migraine headaches. There is a third, less common, type of headache—the cluster headache—that is a cousin to the migraine. Let’s begin by learning about each type of headache.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common headache type and affect more than 75% of all headache sufferers. Most people describe a tension headache as a persistent, dull, achy feeling either on one or both sides of the head, around the head, or behind the eyes that feels like a tight band. These headaches usually begin slowly and gradually, can last for minutes or days, and typically start in the middle or toward the end of the day. The most frequent cause of tension headaches is stress or bad posture, which inflames the spine and muscles in the upper back and neck.

Tension headaches, or stress headaches, can last from 30 minutes to several days, and are common in those who hold desk jobs. In some cases, tension headache may become chronic and persist for many months. Although the pain can at times be severe, tension headaches are seldom accompanied by nausea, throbbing or vomiting.

Tension headaches are most commonly caused by subluxations in the upper back and neck, especially the upper neck, and generally also feature active trigger points. When the top cervical vertebrae lose their normal motion or position, a small muscle called the rectus capitis posterior minor (RCPM) muscle spasms. The spasm then moves through the RCPM to a tendon that connects at one end to the RCPM and attaches at the other to the thin, pain-sensitive tissue, called the dura mater, which covers the brain. Finally, the spasm reaches the dura mater, where it registers as headache pain. Although the brain itself has no ability to feel pain, the dura mater is very pain-sensitive. Consequently, when the RCPM muscle and its tendon spasm and subsequently pull at the dura mater, it triggers a headache.

Another cause of tension type headaches is referred pain from active trigger points in the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle on the side of the neck, also known as the levator muscle. SCM-induced tension headaches are very common in people who suffer the damage to neck muscles that is caused by whiplash injury. Treatment for tension headache, regardless of the cause, is available at Dickason Chiropractic.

Chiropractic Care for Headaches Numerous research studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments are very effective for treating tension headaches, especially headaches that originate in the neck. Adjustments are available in Castle Rock at Dickason Chiropractic. A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that “spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than commonly prescribed medications.” These findings confirm the results of an earlier study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that found spinal manipulative therapy to be very effective for treating tension headaches. This study also found that those who received chiropractic treatment for four weeks and then stopped experienced a sustained benefit in contrast to patients who merely took pain medication. Each individual’s case is different and requires a thorough evaluation before Dickason Chiropractic can determine a proper course of chiropractic care. However, in most cases of tension headache, manipulating the upper two cervical vertebrae and adjusting the junction between the cervical and thoracic spine yields significant improvement. This is also helpful in most cases of migraine headache, as long as patients avoid all food and lifestyle triggers.

Headache Trigger Points

Four muscles are typically involved in trigger point therapy for headaches: the Splenius muscles, the Suboccipitals, the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the Trapezius. The Splenius muscles are comprised of two individual muscles, the Splenius Capitis and the Splenius Cervicis, which run from the upper back to either the base of the skull (splenius capitis) or the upper cervical vertebrae (splenius cervicis). Trigger points in the Splenius muscles, when they become active, commonly cause headache pain that travels through the head to the back of the eye, as well as to the top of the head.

The Suboccipitals are a group of four small muscles that maintain proper movement and positioning between the first cervical vertebra and the base of the skull. Activating the trigger points in these muscles results in pain that feels like it’s inside the head and extends from the back of the head to the eye and forehead. Suboccipitally caused headaches will often feel like one entire side of the head hurts, a pain pattern similar to migraine.

The Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle runs from the base of the skull, just behind the ear, down the side of the neck, and attaches at the other end to the top of the sternum (breastbone). Although most people are not aware the SCM contains trigger points, their effects are widespread, including referred pain, balance issues and visual disturbances. Referred pain patterns tend to manifest as intense eye pain, headaches over the eye or even earaches. Another unusual characteristic of SCM trigger points is that, when they are active, patients can experience dizziness, nausea and inability to balance.

The trapezius muscle is the very large, flat muscle that stretches between the upper and middle part of your back. A common trigger point located in the apex of the Trapezius muscle refers pain to the temple and back of the head and occasionally causes headache pain. This trigger point is capable of generating satellite trigger points in the muscles of the temple or jaw, which can result in jaw or tooth pain.

Avoid Headache Triggers