Headaches and Migraines

Overview

A headache can be one of the most disabling conditions in people’s lives.  It can start in any area of the head, be generalized pain on one side of the head or both, or it can be isolated to a specific location on the head.  It may develop slowly as a dull sensation called a tension headache, or present as a sequence of headaches referred to as cluster headaches. Migraine headaches often produce debilitating pain that makes it impossible to work or even complete routine daily tasks.

Headache and Migraine

Different types of headaches and the symptoms

Primary Headaches

A primary headache is a headache that is not associated with an underlying disease process.  Primary headaches typically do not require immediate medical care. Symptoms of a primary headache, are usually associated with inflammation of nerves, blood vessels and muscles, since the brain itself is unable to feel pain.

Examples of primary headaches include:

Migraines

As the most serious type of headache, migraines can induce nausea, difficulty speaking, and an extreme sensitivity to light.  These are often associated with a prodrome, which are early symptoms that proceed the onset of the migraine headache.  Some people experience what is referred to as an “aura”, which occurs before the migraine sets in, although it may not occur with every headache.  An “aura” can include visual changes such as flickering or blind spots in your field of vision which may make it hard to drive or focus.  You may feel changes in sensation such as numbness, tingling or pins and needles which is often localized to the face and hands or more globally across the body.  Some people experience difficulty communicating with others which can include trouble speaking or writing, trouble understanding others, or generalized confusion.   While we don’t fully understand migraine causes, there are multiple factors that may increase your risk of getting migraines.  A few of these can include your genetics, age, gender, hormonal changes, and stress.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches usually start as a dull pain or tightness which can be located in the sides or front of the head, but often begin in the back of the head and may extend around to the front of the head and often are felt as if they are behind the eyes.  These types of headaches are typically caused by tight muscles in the neck and upper back, which can be exacerbated by stress.  These can be episodic or chronic occurring on a daily basis.  These headaches can last anywhere from 30 minutes to days, with an onset which is more common toward the middle or end of the day, or can come and go over a long period of time and may get stronger or ease up throughout the day.  Almost everybody will experience a tension headache periodically but a certain amount of the population experiences them on a daily basis. Women are more likely to get them than men.

Other symptoms of a tension headache may include difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irritability, difficulty focusing, muscle aches, sensitive to light or noise.  Unlike migraines, they usually don’t include numbness and tingling in the face or hands, muscle weakness, blurring of the vision, nausea or vomiting.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches come in cycles usually during a specific time of the year and are characterized by groups of headaches that can last for days or months with periods of no headaches in between.  These may wake you up in the middle of the night with severe pain in the side of the head or around one eye.  These headaches are usually only located on one side of the head or face.  They strike quickly and may include some migraine-type symptoms including an aura, nausea, or sensitivity to light and sound, but this is usually unilateral.  These headaches are also typically seasonal and are often experienced at the same time each year.  These headaches usually occur daily and can come and go throughout the day.  They can last anywhere from minutes to hours but frequently occur at the same time each day and/or night.  Although these headaches are usually severe, they are generally not the result of underlying disease.

Headache Prevention

There are a few things you can do to prevent or limit the number of headaches you are experiencing.  One of the best ways to limit headaches are to avoid the triggers.  Keep a diary of when the headaches occur, and if there is anything that seems to trigger the headache such as foods, activities, or stress.  Some other ways to prevent headaches include: limiting medication use, maintaining consistent sleeping patterns, exercising, which includes regular stretching, reducing stress, and reducing caffeine use.  Some stretches that are extremely effective in reducing muscle tension and headaches are:

  • Neck rolls
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Cervical retraction
  • Levator scapulae stretch
  • Upper trapezius stretch
  • Anterior neck stretch

At the Center for Total Back Care, we have success treating headaches by using a combination of physical therapy and chiropractic treatment and rehabilitation techniques to help our patients reduce the number of headaches and in many instances recover from daily recurring headaches. Prevention starts by running non-invasive tests, including MedX specific spinal strength testing, which allows us to test neck strength and then compare the results to the strength range of someone who is in your age group.  We have found that the majority of tension headaches are a result of functional weakness in the muscles of the neck and by testing for strength deficits helps us to develop a plan to strengthen these weak neck muscles which will reduce, and in most cases, eliminate these tension headaches allowing you to resume an active normal daily routine.

How to Get Rid of Headaches in Mesa

For primary headaches surgery is not an option to alleviate head pain, and overuse of medications can trigger side effects that include worsening headaches. This means the non-surgical testing and prevention options provided by Dr. Jolley and Dr. Raczkowski help our patients reduce the number and the severity of both sporadic and chronic headaches. Using a combination of chiropractic and physical therapy techniques, our clinic delivers a treatment regimen that helps you enjoy going to work and participating in your favorite daily activities.  Don’t suffer with headaches or think that it is normal to have headaches.  Contact our office at (480) 633-8293 to determine the cause of your headaches and begin the road to recovery today.