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What Type of Headache Do You Get? 

 August 31, 2010

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Mechanicsville, Virginia — Headaches are common, but not normal.  If we are healthy and functioning as we should, we should not get even one headache.  This, despite what TV commercials tell us!

The problem is most of us are not perfectly healthy and there are things in our lives that prevent optimal function.  This can be as obvious as diet, rest, and stress.  Or as significant as subluxations.  Or combinations of both.

It turns out chiropractic if very helpful for most migraine sufferers.  At Stover Chiropractic, P.C., fortunately we can find the cause of the headache pain and correct it in most cases.  I don’t want to make it sound simple, but for most, a cause can be found.

It turns out there are several kinds of headaches, with different symptoms and physiologic triggers.  The most common types of headaches are tension, migraine, cervicogenic and cluster.  Migraine headaches unique issue we will talk about them in another post.

Tension headaches are the most frequent type in the general population.  Most commonly it starts with tension and tightness in the neck (especially at the top), and shoulders.  The pain then progresses to the base of the skull.  Often the forehead and temples will ache as well.

Cervicogenic headaches originate from problems in the neck.  Often preceded by awkward neck movement or position.  Like painting ceilings, working in odd positions (mechanics, electricians) or injuries to the neck.  This headache is usually associated with decreased range of motion in the neck and pain in the shoulder, neck or arm.

The cause of tension and cervicogenic headaches is related to irritation of nerves that lead to the scalp and the base of the skull.  Those nerves exit the spine in the neck and particularly the upper cervical region.  It is important to evaluate the neck and spine for subluxations to make sure they are not a part of the problem.

Any therapy that helps with relaxing the muscles will likely help.  However, if the tension or nerve irritation is caused by structural misalignments it will always be temporary to massage tight muscles.  Chiropractic will be a better solutions to the structural issues and nerve irritation.

Cluster headaches are another category of headaches.  They are rare.  Most suffers are men (85%).  It is characterized by intense bouts of pain in very specific focal points.  It occurs in clusters, minutes to hours in length.  Typically the pain centers around one eye.  Sometimes nasal congestion occurs on the affected side of the face.  For that reason it is suspected sinus problems are a trigger.  In my experience these are tough for chiropractic to solve.  That being said it is important to keep in mind that these headaches are multi-factoral.  I find it is often the case that a subluxation in the neck is a trigger or aggravating factor for people who suffer with these.  So if a subluxation can be corrected, pain intensity and frequency decreases.

What can be done other than chiropractic care to prevent headaches?  Check these ideas out:

1.  Manage stress – relaxation exercises, directed meditation, breathing exercises, taking breaks from work, vacation (> 4 days).

2.  Exercise regularly – Cardiovascular exercise helps muscles and sense of well being

3.  Watch your posture – The muscles that support the neck and head are often put under increased stress with poor posture.

4.  Drink plenty of water

Hope this helps.  Migraine headaches next time.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.


Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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