Dr. David Carter
Daily Headaches? Things You Can do to Help
Did you know that there are more than 150 different types of headaches?
There are many causes for headaches, but in many cases, your body is trying to get your attention to correct/change something. To keep it simple and reader-friendly, I am not going to go into detail about all the different types of headaches out there. Instead, there are two main categories.
Primary Headaches and Secondary Headaches
Those classified as secondary headaches result from another medical condition (trauma, tumors, high blood pressure, infection, medications, etc.) If you experience headaches daily, without an obvious cause, you should seek medical advice to rule in/out any underlying medical conditions. The sudden onset of a severe headache can be a medical emergency in rare situations. Sometimes referred to as thunderclap headaches, these may be symptoms of a vascular emergency in the brain. A headache that is getting progressively worse over time and/or does not respond to over-the-counter medications is another sign that may require further evaluation. After secondary causes of headaches are ruled out, we can shift our attention to primary headaches, which are vastly more common, and more likely to respond to chiropractic treatment. Primary headaches typically include tension-type headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches.
Causes of Primary Headaches
I'm always amazed at how many people assume that daily headaches are normal because they've had them for so long. IT'S NOT! Let me repeat that one more time... Having a headache every day is not normal. By far, the most common type of headache I see is the tension-type headache. One of the most common causes behind this is forward head posture, sometimes caused by prolonged sitting, looking down at phones/tablets for long periods of time, and general tightness in the chest rounding the shoulders forward. While there are many other causes of tension-type headaches, these are some of the most common issues I see.
Treating the Physical Causes
Improving thoracic spine and shoulder mobility can help reduce tension on the neck can improve headache symptoms. Soft tissue work and stretching along the base of the skull works remarkably well in reducing pressure on the nerves that traverse the back of the head, thus resulting in reduced severity/frequency of headaches. Strengthening the muscles in the front of the neck also has a great impact on reducing headaches. The good news is, you can do most of these things on your own! While it is better to have somebody coach you through it the first time, there is very little harm in doing it on your own.
First, the soft tissue. If you take your right hand, place your palm directly over your right ear, and let your thumb wrap around to the back of your head. This will be fairly close to the right area to work through those tight muscles. If they are sore, or feel like your headache when you put pressure on it, you are in the right spot. Be gentle here, over working these can sometimes have the opposite effect and temporarily make your headache worse. Work both left and right sides for this area, you may find that one side is more tender than the other.
Second, strengthening the front of the neck. Lay flat on your back on the floor. Tuck your chin (try to give yourself a double chin). Raise your head slightly off the floor (just an inch or so is plenty), and hold this position. You should be able to hold your head up without losing that chin tuck for anywhere between 20-40 seconds. If this is really difficult, you know it's an area to work on!
Do these two things fix all headaches? No. However, it's a great place to start if secondary causes to your headache have been ruled out. If you are dealing with regular migraines, these things may help by removing some of the physical stressors, but I typically recommend starting a food/drink diary to see if there is a correlation or migraine trigger you can spot between what you are ingesting, and your migraine pattern.
If you are struggling with headaches/migraines and have any questions, please feel free to reach out. I'm here to help in anyway that I can!
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