Nine out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches. Most people have anywhere from two to four headaches a month, and this is considered “normal”. Does 50-100 headaches sound “normal” to you? It doesn’t to me.
What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative.
About 5% of all headaches are warning signals the body is sending alerting us to a more serious problem. The remaining 95% are known as primary headaches, like tension headaches, migraines, or cluster headaches. Most primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck.
Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.), and lifestyle (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than in the past, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture, such as sitting in front of a computer or with your head flexed forward while texting on your phone, called “text-neck”. This sedentary, “technophilic” lifestyle can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back, and scalp, causing your head to ache.
In our office, we focus mainly on the mechanical and physical reasons for headaches, but we can also help you with lifestyle changes for the other causes of headaches. Research shows that spinal manipulation – one of the primary treatments provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck.1 Also, a 2011 JMPT study found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves and relieves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.2
Headaches are common, but not normal. A headache is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. Headaches that begin in the spine, specifically the neck and upper back region, will persist if left alone. These are spinal problems that need chiropractic care correction. A lack of mobility at a cervical or thoracic vertebra can create inflammation and nerve interference, which in turn can create muscle spasm and headache. With any problem, it is important to find the root cause, whether it be from the muscles, joints, discs, or something else entirely.
New Patient Special
$49 Complete Headache Health Screening
How Our Headache Care Plan Works
We Will Tell You If We Can Help
A chiropractor will also let you know if we can’t help and advise or refer you to a health care provider that can. We do a thorough complimentary consultation and, if we can help, a comprehensive examination that may include x-rays or other diagnostics.
A Customized Treatment Plan
We use the data collected from our consultation and examination and provide you with a written Report of Findings that your chiropractor explains. We will design a customized care plan that reflects your unique body and situation.
Get Back to Your Life
We initially expect your pain to subside quickly and your overall function and health to undergo correction. A chiropractor works to correct the underlying cause of the problem to fix that “leaky” roof, rather than just place buckets to collect the water.
How We Treat Headaches In Fairhaven, MA
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
The first thing our doctors will do with every new patient is a comprehensive history and consultation. They’ll use this time to really listen to you and find out what’s causing your headaches. The doctor will then do a chiropractic, functional, orthopedic, and neurological exam. If necessary, digital X-rays will be taken to assess the cervical curve for correct positioning and the cervical joints for degenerative changes that may indicate past trauma. These views are the “roadmap” of where to work and how to get to the bottom of the headache’s root cause.
Specific Chiropractic Care in Fairhaven, MA
A subluxation is a word chiropractors use to describe the loss of movement, swelling or inflammation, nerve root irritation, disc issues, and degenerative changes – like arthritis – at a specific joint level. This joint dysfunction and spinal nerve root irritation can be the cause of a headache. It is important to rid your body of these subluxations because not only can they cause physical ailments but, if left untreated, they can also cause visceral issues such as acid reflux, constipation, ear infections, and other problems not typically associated with chiropractic care. The spinal nerve roots not only sense pain, numbness, and tingling sensations when they’re irritated by a subluxation, they can also cause muscle spasm and weakness and organ and gland dysfunction.
One way to illustrate how a subluxation works is to imagine a garden hose leading to your vegetable garden. If a large rock is sitting on that hose, and the garden only gets a trickle of water each day, how healthy do you think that garden will be in a week, a month, a year? Those beautiful vegetables you were counting on will not flourish. The job of a gardener is to take the rock off the hose, much like the job of a chiropractor is to take pressure off of the nerves by removing the subluxation with a chiropractic adjustment. It’s said that just the weight of a dime can reduce the function of a spinal nerve root by 60%.
The spinal nerve roots travel between the bones in your neck and back branching out millions of times to innervate every gland, muscle, and organ in your body. The nervous system runs your body, and the spinal vertebrae protect it. If a vertebra is subluxated you cannot be at your best! Your vitality and energy will drop and you won’t be able to perform optimally. If your headaches are caused by a subluxation, the issue won’t get better until the subluxation is corrected.
Massage Therapy and Soft Tissue Work
Massage therapy by a licensed massage therapist (LMT) can help with a headache’s symptoms, though it may not be the ultimate solution. An LMT will assess your muscle spasm and work to loosen up any tight muscles that have restricted spinal movement that may have perpetuated a subluxation. It’s important to have the chiropractors at Barley Wellness assess whether your headache is from a simple tight muscle or a subluxation that is creating that tight muscle. Many times, we find the underlying cause of muscle tension headaches is a subluxation.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Muscle weakness and imbalance will persist when a subluxation occurs. This may lead to Forward Head Posture, creating muscle tension in the upper back and neck. Once the subluxation is corrected it’s important to strengthen those muscles through exercise in order to maintain that correction. Sometimes a patient develops Upper Cross Syndrome which can result in imbalances of muscle tone or timing, often leading to poor movement patterns. In our tech-heavy society, upper cross syndrome increases stress on the head, neck, and shoulder joints. Poor posture at any level may lead to muscle imbalances and headaches.
Our doctors will customize a plan for you based on your functional assessment. They will not only help you in the office with these exercises but will also have a plan for you at home. We will give you the “How-Tos” to avoid aggravating the problem.
Diet recommendations, and knowing what to eat when your head hurts, can help you make good choices when trying to manage headache symptoms. The most common foods and drinks that have been reported to help headaches include:
- Leafy Greens
- Fresh Fruits – especially brightly colored ones high in antioxidants
- Low Sodium Foods
- Coffee – a small cup may help with a caffeine headache
Avoid drinking alcohol and consuming processed foods, aged cheeses, smoked or dried fish, cultured dairy products, high sodium foods like potato chips, and foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. Sometimes, headache relief comes from knowing what not to eat.
Some supplements to help decrease pain and support healing can also be utilized.
Evidence suggests that the following vitamins and supplements may help reduce the severity or frequency of migraine episodes:
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin D
Read Our Online Reviews
Common Types of Headaches in Fairhaven, MA
A tension-type headache (TTH), the most common type of headache, is often described as a tight band around the head causing mild to moderate pain. Experts think tension-type headaches stem from muscle contractions in the face, neck, and scalp, perhaps as a result of heightened emotions, tension, or stress. Muscle tension may be the direct result of spinal subluxation or of nerve irritation causing inflammation and muscle spasms.
A migraine is a headache of varying intensity, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine headaches are sometimes preceded by warning symptoms, one being an aura or the visualization of “foggy light”. Migraine triggers include certain foods and drinks, stress, exercise, and hormonal changes. Migraines can cause throbbing in one particular area that can vary in intensity.
Pelvic pain is another common discomfort experienced during pregnancy. As the body prepares for childbirth, the ligaments in the pelvic area, including the symphysis pubis, stretch and loosen, leading to instability and pain. Chiropractic adjustments can help realign the pelvis and reduce pelvic pain. Our chiropractors may also recommend exercises, stretches, and supportive devices to alleviate discomfort and promote pelvic stability.
Round Ligament Pain
The round ligaments support the uterus and can become strained and stretched during pregnancy, causing sharp or stabbing pain in the lower abdomen or groin area. Chiropractic care can provide relief by addressing any misalignments or imbalances that contribute to round ligament pain. Our chiropractors may also recommend gentle stretching exercises and modifications to daily activities to minimize discomfort.
Allergy or Sinus Headaches
Especially common during allergy seasons – Spring and Fall – an allergy headache may feel like pressure around your eyes, cheeks, and forehead. These are where the frontal, maxillary, sphenoid, and ethmoid sinuses are. Once these sinuses fill up, pain can begin. Sinus congestion can be due to a sinus infection or inflammation from allergies. Those experiencing a sinus or an allergy headache find that pain typically worsens if they bend forward or lie down.
Auto accidents cause significant trauma to the neck, even if the impact is as slow as 10-15mph!
Pain typically starts at the base of the skull and can be made worse by neck movement.
Many times, headaches caused by whiplash are accompanied by concussion-like symptoms. Be sure to have your spine checked after an auto accident, whether you think you are experiencing symptoms or not.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a chiropractor in Fairhaven, MA good for treating headaches?
Chiropractic care has a long history of successfully treating headaches and migraines. At Barley Wellness, we have an extensive understanding of subtle issues occurring in the spine which, due to its connection with the nervous system, is very often the source of pain. We have treated all kinds of headaches in our office with great success.
When should I see a chiropractor for headaches?
Chiropractors can assess, diagnose, and manage headaches. Current evidence suggests that chiropractic care, including manual therapy or adjustments, can be effective in treating cervicogenic and tension headaches. Studies also show that chiropractic care helps decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines.
Why does chiropractic help migraines?
Chiropractic treatment for migraines works in multiple ways by:
– Restoring proper nervous system communication through correcting spinal alignment
– Decreasing irritation in the nerves that send pain signals to the brain
– Reducing muscle tension which is a common trigger for migraine headaches
Are chiropractors covered by insurance for headaches?
Fortunately, most insurance companies cover chiropractic care but do require a co-payment. Chiropractic care is included in most health insurance plans, including major medical plans such as Workers’ Compensation, Medicare, Mass Health, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, Aetna, Tufts, and United Health Care.
What is a natural way to relieve tension headaches?
There are many natural ways to get tension headache relief, including:
– Drink Water – Inadequate hydration may lead you to develop a headache.
– Magnesium Supplement – 600 mg of magnesium citrate per day taken orally can relax muscle tension.
– Limit Alcohol – Alcohol dehydrates you and can cause headaches.
– Get Adequate Sleep – Keep your phone and any “blue” light out of the bedroom and try to sleep for 6-8 hours per night.
– Avoid Foods High in Histamine – Histamine is found in certain foods like aged cheeses, fermented food, beer, wine, smoked fish, and cured meats.
– Use Essential Oils – Peppermint and lavender essential oils are especially helpful when you have a headache.
– Try a B-Complex Vitamin – Several studies have shown that the B vitamin supplements riboflavin (B2), folate, B12, and pyridoxine (B6) may reduce headache symptoms. B-complex vitamins contain all eight of the B vitamins and are a safe, cost-effective way to naturally treat headache symptoms.
– Cold Compress – Applying cold or frozen compresses to the neck or head area decreases inflammation, slows nerve conduction, and constricts blood vessels, all of which help reduce headache pain. If you don’t have a cold pack at home a bag of frozen peas will do too.
– Massage Your “Temples” – Many people call the temporal area of the skull – the slight indentation on the sides of the head, about an inch back from the eyes – the temples. Gentle massage of the muscles in that region can provide headache relief.
1. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, et al. Evidence based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with neck pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2014; 37: 42-63.
2. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, et al. Evidence based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2011; 34: 274-89.