Almost all of us at some point in time experience a headache of some form. There are many types of headaches, such as tension, cluster, sinus, and migraine, to name a few. Headaches can be caused by one or many factors, and one of the primary causative agents is aberrant joint function in the cervical spine with associated muscular and ligamentous compensation. This is especially the case with tension and migraine headaches.
So, what exactly is a headache? Being our brain does not feel pain, the structures that sense pain tend to be the blood vessels. In fact, the walls of the vessels are what gives you the sensation of a headache. Your neurological system controls the blood flow to the brain. When you are under a lot of stress, or are tired/sick, eat certain foods (triggering agents), or have cervical spine mechanical dysfunction, the neurological system can function at a less than optimal level and cause improper vasodilation (opening) and constriction (closing) of the blood vessels. This continual changing in pressure, over even a short period of time, can cause the sensation we call a headache.
In regards to headache pain, chiropractors work to identify the cause(s) of the headaches. Sometimes referrals to other health care providers are necessary if the pain is too severe. It is important to remember that pain medication for headaches does not address the cause of the headache, but rather simply works to dull, or kill the pain. Although this may help short-term, this approach will not help eliminate the cause of the headaches. Chiropractic care, nutritional changes (including reduction in oxidative stress), and other factors can all help in reducing headache frequency, intensity, length. In many instances, positive changes to the mechanics of the cervical spine and improving shoulder stability will help to reduce or eliminate headaches.
In cases where a lack of a proper cervical lordosis (curve) is identified (this is often seen with people who sit for years at desk jobs), rehabilitation will be aimed to correct faulty joint mechanics as well as to help the patient re-establish a proper curve and develop scapular stability. We know that as the cervical curve is lost, there is more stress placed on the joints and discs and this leads to significant injury over time.