Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from regular headaches, of those 12 million suffer daily and 28 million suffer from migraines. 20% of our children suffer from headaches. The International Headache Society has classified 129 different types of headaches and these headaches are the number one reason people use over the counter drugs.
What is causing my headache? Headaches have many causes or “triggers”, including foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc ) and or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc ) 95% of all headaches are primary headaches meaning they are not caused by disease, some examples are tension headaches, migraines or cluster headaches. The headache is the primary concern. According to Dr. George B. McClelland the chairman of the American Chiropractic Association’s Board of Governors, “The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck.” Nearly 12 million Americans suffer from what is called Chronic Daily Headaches (CDH) a relatively new diagnosis classified by frequency. 180 headaches per year will classify a person as having CDH. While these headaches are quite common they are by no means “NORMAL.” Pain, in any form is a definitive warning sign that something is not quite right with the body.
Of the primary headaches, tension type headaches are the most prevalent estimated at 75% to as much as 90% of those who complain of chronic or frequent headaches. Migraine’s are the second most common type of headache. An estimated 28 million people in America have recurring migraine headaches. They affect women more than men and can affect children as well. Another 7 million Americans experience Cervicogenic (neck related) headaches more than 5 times a month. Taking medication may temporarily help some people with symptoms; these symptoms are your bodies way of alerting you that something is wrong. Covering up the cause will not prevent recurrences.
1. Chiropractic Care
Research has shown that spinal manipulation (the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic) may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. Researchers at Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham NC found that spinal manipulation resulted in the almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck. This treatment also had significantly fewer side-effects and longer lasting relief of tension-type headaches than a commonly prescribed medication.
2. Exercise Regularly
Studies have shown that consistent aerobic exercise over several weeks to months reduced the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches. The exercise should be preformed at least twenty minutes, three times per week. It can include things like walking, running, sports, or bicycling. Exercise should done to tolerance, unfortunately for some people exercise can trigger or aggravate a headache.
3. Watch What You Eat
Studies have also shown that eliminating all possible food related triggers can lead to significant improvement in patients with migraine headaches. Some of the more common triggers are chocolate, lunchmeats, red wines, aged cheeses, MSG, and excessive salt. Even subtle drops in blood sugar levels can trigger a headache so eating small meals and not skipping will help maintain a steady blood sugar level.
4. Drink Your Water
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of headaches. People presenting to hospitals for severe headaches are almost always treated with fluids initially. Dehydration causes muscle contraction (cramping) which in turn causes pain. A good rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight in ounces of pure H2O (water alone, tea, lemonade, crystal light does not count) everyday.
5. Take Your Vitamins
A Belgian study of 49 people who frequently got migraine headaches were given 400 milligrams of riboflavin. As a result half of the people in the study became migraine free. Among the others the intensity of pain was reduced approximately 70 percent. Another important vitamin to supplement with is Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Omega 3s diffuse some harmful pollutants to our system that may have a hand in triggering headaches. The vitamin does this because of its powerful anti-oxidant properties. It also decreases general inflammation in our bodies. Lastly, Calcium and Magnesium together are a natural muscle relaxer, they help to reduce vascular tension.
6. Stress Management
Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed out you clench your teeth or shrug your shoulders? This is the tension that builds up in your body and can lead to headaches. Stress also interferes with a small almond shaped gland that sits a top the kidneys called the Adrenal gland. This is known as your stress gland and it regulates many many hormones. These hormonal imbalances disrupt a number of systems in our bodies causing problems like sleep disturbance, irritability, weight trouble, sinus/allergy problems, fatigue, and digestive problems in addition to headaches. Stress relieving techniques such as yoga, exercise, meditation, visualization, and deep breathing have been known to help. A good quality adrenal support supplement can naturally balance hormones relieving the effects of stress.
7. Get Some Rest
Sleep patterns can have a dramatic effect on headaches. Too much sleep or too little sleep can provoke headaches. Avoid sleeping in on weekends to keep the awake/sleep cycle consistent. Excessive sleep can cause the body to be in one position for to long leading to joint misalignment and a condition called contracture (muscle spasm). On the flip side, if we struggle to stay awake this leads to decreased energy, eye strain, muscle fatigue, and you guessed it, a headache.
8. Pay Attention to Caffeine Consumption
Many people are addicted to caffeine. When this occurs a lack of intake can trigger a headache due to withdrawal. Caffeine should be consumed in moderation with special attention being paid to fluctuations. If you consume 5 cups of coffee everyday you should probably stay with 5 cups everyday, or even better slowly ween yourself off of it altogether. Caffeine causes vasoconstriction, consuming to much could cause a headache to trigger.
9. Quit Smoking
Scientific evidence suggests that smoking may cause headaches by raising carbon monoxide levels in the blood and brain. This causes reduced oxygenation depriving tissues of needed oxygen causing headaches and other pain-related illness. Smoking can also reduce the benefit of other treatments such as exercise, sleep management, and relaxation. Nicotine, Caffeine, and Sugar all deplete the Adrenal gland. Studies have shown that 33% of migraine sufferers use tobacco, and that smokers had more intense headaches than nonsmokers.
Lets review. 1. A well balanced diet, 2. proper sleep, 3. proper avoidance of tobacco and alcohol, 4. regular exercise, 5. stress reduction, 6. proper supplementation, 7. proper hydration, 8. caffeine management and 9. chiropractic care are all necessary and a great start toward headache control and prevention. Take back your life and start implementing the things in this article today! If you know someone suffering from headaches please pass this on, you could not only be helping them but everyone they come into contact with on a day to day basis.
For help implementing these principles or questions please feel free to contact our office anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org attention Dr. Ryan Giel or call (704)399-1300. We are located at 3120 Wilkinson Blvd. Suite D3 in the Wall Mart Shopping Center Charlotte NC 28208.