Q: Dr. Scott, I’ve had very severe headaches for a long time. Is there anything you can be certain about regarding my getting rid of these damn headaches?
A: The key to correcting a headache is to find its exact cause. As there are so many reasons for headaches, let’s first consider them in the total scheme of health. With a lifetime prevalence of 93% in men and 99% in women, headaches are undeniably an extremely common problem that afflicts both sexes. However, women consistently reported neck pain 83% more than men in a review of 25 studies. (Cuthbert, 2018) With a prevalence of over 47% reported in some populations, episodic tension-type headache is the most common of all headache types; chronic tension-type headache is found in 1% to 3% of the general population. However, its prevalence may be as high at 15-to-20% in those with chronic headaches.
Your body is designed in a beautiful manner to be healthy. It has many mechanisms to keep it healthy in spite of the abuse it takes. When disturbances occur with which the body cannot cope, it has warning systems, usually in the form of pain. When you have a headache, your body’s warning mechanism is telling you something is wrong. A headache is generally considered an enemy; however, when looked at in its proper perspective, a headache is often a friend because it warns of some health problem needing attention.
Some approaches to headaches are designed to override, or numb out, the pain. This type of relief is similar to disconnecting a ringing fire alarm because it is annoying, and forgetting why the alarm is ringing.
Doctors working with natural health care recognize the fact that the body is designed to work in a harmonious, pain-free manner. When conducting an examination, we look for the reason pain is present. Some of the most important aspects of the examination will include evaluation of the body’s control systems, such as the nervous system. These control systems govern the function of the body’s organs, structures, and systems, which must function without interference to maintain peak health. It stands to reason that the disturbance causing your headache must be corrected for health to ensue. Overriding the symptom of head pain with medication is just attacking the problem at a superficial level.
Throughout 20+ years of successfully treating headaches, I have repeatedly measured abnormalities and muscle weakness and tenderness in the muscles attaching to the skull and upper neck. Since patients with headaches frequently show an inhibition and an increased tenderness in the pericranial, neck and shoulder muscles that attach to the skull, it is essential that anyone with headaches have their muscle problems corrected.
Each of the forms of headache (migraine, sinus, visual, suboccipital, allergic, and digestive) will create specific types of muscle dysfunctions that produce pain in your neck and head, jaw, face and eyes.
So it should be recognized that muscle imbalance has clearly been measured as a fundamental characteristic of musculoskeletal pain syndromes called headaches.
Poor sleeping, texting and other routine activities can literally be a pain in the neck and head. While a lot of headache pain is related to emotional stress, physical stress is also a contributing factor. Here are a few ways to reduce physical stress on your neck and head.
Choose a pillow that supports and maintains your neck’s natural curve. A pillow that is too soft doesn’t give your neck the support it needs, and pain can result.
Perform regular strengthening and stretching neck exercises each day. Stretching and yoga can really help you with headaches.
Be careful of the way you use your back and neck with a backpack, bag or briefcase that is too heavy. Lighten your load.
Take frequent breaks from sitting in front of a computer. Keep your head aligned with your spine and relax your jaw—the same goes for when you’re texting.
Sleeping on your stomach can stress your neck and give you headaches when you wake up. Try a side or back position with a supportive neck pillow.
There are so many excellent chiropractors in Southern Colorado, so make regular chiropractic care a part of your healthcare routine.
Even minor headaches and neck pain can affect your quality of life – but relief is available, and it doesn’t come from a bottle.