According to the latest research, 9% of men and 12% of women in the U.S. experience at least 1-2 headache episodes per month. And, more than 4% of the U.S. population suffers from frequent headaches, defined as headaches that occur at least 180 days a year. Needless to say, headaches have become a social and economic burden in the United States, as well as other parts of the world.
Scientists have identified over 300 causes for headaches. Various pain-sensitive structures and tissues including the skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscles, arteries, periosteal bone covering, and the upper cervical and facial nerves produce headaches when irritated or injured. Fortunately, only a handful of causes are responsible for the majority of headaches.
The most common of these headaches include:
- Cervicogenic- problems within the neck
- Muscle-tension- neck and upper back muscular spasms
- Post-traumatic- following head/neck trauma, i.e. whiplash
- Drug-induced- from analgesic overuse
Doctors of chiropractic successfully help thousands of individuals everyday obtain safe, effective, long-term relief from their headaches. This is because most headaches have a spinal, muscular, or habitual component which the chiropractor has been trained to identify and treat. In fact, surveys show that 10-25% of patients initiate chiropractic care for the relief of headaches.
Chiropractic Treatment of Headaches
Chiropractors successfully treat thousands of headache sufferers everyday. According to surveys, as many as 25% of the individuals seeking chiropractic care do so for the treatment of headaches.
Chiropractic has such good success in the treatment of headaches because most headaches are either soft tissue or neurologic in nature. Also, a significant portion of headaches originate in the tissues of the neck. And since chiropractors focus their treatment on the soft tissues of the spine, which includes the neck, the majority of headaches can be successfully managed with appropriate chiropractic care. Best of all, chiropractic treatments consist of only safe, natural, and noninvasive therapies that focus on correcting the cause of headaches, and not simply the short-term masking of symptoms.
Chiropractic treatment for headaches has been compared with other forms of treatments and in most cases, has excelled.
Headache Trigger Points
Trigger point therapy for headaches tends to involve four muscles: the Splenius muscles, the Suboccipitals, the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the Trapezius. The Splenius muscles are comprised of two individual muscles – the Splenius Capitis and the Splenius Cervicis. Both of these muscles run from the upper back to either the base of the skull (splenius capitis) or the upper cervical vertebrae (splenius cervicis). Trigger points in the Splenius muscles are a common cause of headache pain that travels through the head to the back of the eye, as well as to the top of the head.
The Suboccipitals are actually a group of four small muscles that are responsible for maintaining the proper movement and positioning between the first cervical vertebra and the base of the skull. Trigger points in these muscles will cause pain that feels like it’s inside the head, extending from the back of the head to the eye and forehead. Often times it will feel like the whole side of the head hurts, a pain pattern similar to that experienced with a migraine.
The Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle runs from the base of the skull, just behind the ear, down the side of the neck to attach to the top of the sternum (breastbone). Although most people are not aware of the SCM trigger points, their effects are widespread, including referred pain, balance problems and visual disturbances. Referred pain patterns tend to be deep eye pain, headaches over the eye and can even cause earaches. Another unusual characteristic of SCM trigger points is that they can cause dizziness, nausea and unbalance.
The trapezius muscle is the very large, flat muscle in the upper and mid back. A common trigger point located in the very top of the Trapezius muscle refers pain to the temple and back of the head and is sometimes responsible for headache pain. This trigger point is capable of producing satellite trigger points in the muscles in the temple or jaw, which can lead to jaw or tooth pain.
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