Headaches are a very common problem in Australia. See some interesting statistics below:
- The majority of Australians throughout their lifetime will suffer headaches. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey in 1995, almost 15% of the Australian population were taking medication for headaches with higher prevalence in people aged between 25-44.
- Among adults of all ages, migraines are one of the top 20 causes of disability expressed as years of healthy life lost to disability. (The World Health Report 2001).
- 54% of migraine patients experience one or more attacks per month, and 13% claim one or more attacks per week (Steiner et al. 2003, Cephalalgia).
- About a third (34%) of migraine sufferers face difficulties or discrimination at work because of their condition (The Migraine Trust, UK, 2004).
- A survey by neurologists found that up to one-third of all patients consulted because of headache – more than any other complaint (WHO, Factsheet 277, March 2004).
- Depression is three times more common in people with migraine or severe headaches than in healthy individuals (WHO, Factsheet 277, March 2004).
The first step to treating and managing headaches is to rule out the possibility of any medical problem, such as infections, tumours, fractures or blood clots (although these are rarely the cause). Then once serious medical conditions are ruled out, it is important to manage your headaches in a conservative way. This is where your chiropractor comes in. Chiropractors are fully qualified and registered health professionals who are highly trained to diagnose and/or treat conditions of the neuromuscular skeletal system. Dr Bailey can assess the condition of your spine and identify the cause of your headaches. He can then discuss with you your health goals and recommend a treatment program that will assist you in meeting these goals.
Treatment can include: chiropractic adjustments, exercise, spinal curve correction, traction, postural assessment, lifestyle changes etc.
Interesting Facts on Headaches
- Rebound headaches – One can get a headache from taking too many medications too often. This is called a rebound headache. It will not go away until the person stops taking the medication entirely. Overdosing on paracetamol can also damage your liver and your kidneys.
- Migraines are hereditary – Most children who get migraines, have at least one close family member who suffer from migraines as well. If a child has one parent who suffers from migraines, they have a 50% chance of getting them too; if both are sufferers, this rises to 75% chance.
- Magnesium mitigates migraines – Migraine sufferers often have low magnesium levels. Several studies have shown increased magnesium as a potentially effective way to treat migraines in individuals with low magnesium levels.
Causes of Headaches
There are many possible causes of headaches, and it is often difficult to work out which structure is the cause. This is why it is important to have your headaches checked by a Chiropractor who is a fully qualified health professional, as well as highly trained to diagnose and/or treat conditions of the neuromuscular skeletal system.
All of the components in your head, neck and spine have the potential to cause a headache if they are affected by injury or disease, and sometimes, it is more than one structure that is afflicted. It is important to remember, most people with headaches do not have any significant disease or damage to their spine, such as fractures. It is more common for the pain to come from the nerves, muscles, ligaments and joints.
Some common causes of Headaches include:
- Muscular tension / Stress – One of the most common side effects of stress is increased muscle tension. The message to contract or relax a muscle is given by the brain and sent by the nerves to the muscle. When we are under stress, we commonly tense the muscles of the shoulders, upper back, neck and face. By sending this message over and over again, when we are stressed, causes fatigue, stiffness and localised pain in your muscles and joints.
- Painful trigger points – If muscle tissue is constantly tense or irritated, it will produce chemicals in response. When these chemicals accumulate in a certain point in your muscle, it produces what we call a ‘trigger point’. A trigger point is a point of pressure in the muscle that can refer pain along nerves from the muscle to another area in the body. Trigger points located in your face, neck, shoulders and/or back can refer pain into the head, causing a headache. Joint problems of the neck or back may be involved in causing headaches. Fatigue and diet also appear to play significant roles.
- Poor posture and habits – The way we stand, sit and lie down can put unnecessary tension on the structures of the spine, including our neck. Common postural problems and poor posture habits include:
- Slouching in your chair
- Spending too long sitting down, such as working at a computer without regular stretching breaks
- Sleeping on your stomach or sleeping on an incorrect pillow or mattress
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth.
- Nerve irritation – The pain-sensitive areas of your neck and head are all connected by a central nerve. Occipital neuralgia is a specific type of headache caused by irritation of your nerve. Symptoms of this type of headache include pain that throbs in the base of your head and can sometimes feel like it is shooting or flashing into your face, particularly the forehead. These types of headaches can be caused by :
- Muscle tension
- Incorrect posture
- Viral infection.
This is why it is important to have your spine regularly examined by your Chiropractor who is a fully qualified and registered health professional, as well as being trained to diagnose and/or treat conditions of the neuromuscular skeletal system.
Lifestyle factors can contribute to back pain.
Most reoccurring headaches have contributing lifestyle factors including:
- Lack of exercise
- Being overweight or obese
- Sitting for long periods
- Poor posture
Prevention of Headaches
In most cases, chronic headaches can be relieved by making regular visits to your chiropractor and a few lifestyle changes. Some suggestions include:
- Exercise regularly – this is important not only for your spine but for your overall health and wellbeing. Exercise will also improve posture and increase muscle support of the spine. It is recommended we exercise for 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. You should do some form of physical activity, no matter what your age, weight, health problems or abilities and be active every day in as many ways as possible, doing a range of physical activities incorporating fitness, strength, balance and flexibility. If you have stopped physical activity, or are starting a new physical activity, you should always start at a level that is easily manageable and gradually build up the recommended amount, type and frequency of activity.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight is also very important for your health and overall wellbeing – if you are overweight or obese you are putting extra strain on all of the other parts of your body.
- Consider your posture – always be aware of your posture, especially in seated positions such as when driving or sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Don’t slump, keep your back upright and use support where necessary (such as a lumbar support cushion or footstool). See our work place assessment and car posture guides in The Ashgrove Spinal Centre Mobile App for help in this area.
- Change your mattress and/or pillows – surfaces that are too soft or too hard can aggravate headaches. See Dr Bailey for more information on mattresses he recommends and pillows we prescribe.
Treatment of back pain
In the first couple of weeks our treatment plan will be focused on reducing the frequency and severity of your headaches. Treatment options include:
- Manual therapy – as a qualified health professional, Dr Bailey may use spinal adjustments, manipulation, traction or other manual therapies to help relieve pain and correct your condition.
- Relative rest – this may mean temporarily reducing activity such as sport and heavy lifting.
- Exercises – Dr Bailey can prescribe an individual exercise program for you. Exercise may include stretching, mobility and strengthening exercises targeting the muscles stabilising and supporting your neck and overall posture correction.
Managing long-term reoccurring Headaches
Headaches, if not managed correctly, can be an ongoing problem for many people. Relying on medication to treat headaches can be very damaging to your body and in some cases overuse of pain killers can actually cause headaches, not to mention liver and kidney damage. It is important to attend regular maintenance visits with your chiropractor and continue the exercise program you have been prescribed to strengthen and condition your spine even after the headaches have improved. Talk to Dr Bailey about what exercises you can do on an ongoing basis to maintain the health of your spine and general wellbeing. Recommended activities may include walking, swimming and cycling. It is important you learn about headaches and what triggers yours so you can play an active role in your own treatment.Book An Appointment