Many people come to visit us with the main complaint of headaches. As Chiropractors our first thought, once we rule out any red flags, goes to the neck. For many years Chiropractors have been adjusting the neck and seeing the resolution of headaches.
Headaches and migraines seem to be occurring more frequently in more people. This can most probably be attributed to the epidemic of people looking down at mobile phones, laptops and other hand held devices. This position, that many people spend much of their time in puts us in a forward head posture and places a huge amount of stress on the cervical spine and across the shoulders. This ultimately leads to changes in biomechanics and sensory input from the neck which causes what we as Chiropractors call subluxations.
How does the neck cause headaches?
There are many different diagnoses and therefore causes of headaches. One of the most common diagnosed is a “cervicogenic headache”. Cervicogenic headache is defined as a secondary headache which means that it is caused by a disorder of the cervical spine (neck). This can be caused by different structures in the neck including the joints, disc and/or soft tissue structures such as muscle or ligaments. These headaches are usually one sided and start at the back of the head or neck and then travel to the front. They can sometimes cause arm discomfort on that side and are usually exacerbated by certain neck positions.
There are several research studies that link neck pain and dysfunction to headaches. One such study done by Bogduk suggested that cervicogenic headaches are “a final common pathway for pain generating disorders of the neck”. The paper proposed that the pathophysiology of the cervicogenic headache results from sensory inputs of the upper cervical spine coming into a part of the brain. These inputs can come from the upper cervical joints, the muscles of the upper neck and some of the discs in the upper neck as well as arteries, dura mater and the posterior cranial fossa.
How does adjusting the neck help headaches?
From the above-mentioned study if we know that painful sensory input is coming from the upper neck then what we do as Chiropractors i.e. adjusting the neck, is going to have a positive impact. By adjusting the spinal joints, we help to switch on mechanoreceptors (receptors that detect movement) which reflexively inhibit pain receptors. By improving the movement in the upper neck, we are then able to change the sensory input going into the brain. Clearing up this sensory input removes the brains perception of a painful stimuli which helps to ease the headache.
Put in simple terms: By improving motion in the neck we help to improve the signals to the brain so that it isn’t receiving painful stimulus and causing you a headache.
Can Chiropractic help my headache?
It is important to note that there are many other types of headaches such as cluster headaches, tension headaches and sinus headaches. Chiropractic may be able to offer relief from these headaches by performing a detailed history and exam as well as specific Chiropractic adjustments. Headaches are usually caused by multiple factors so we can help you address those as well.
If you suffer from headaches our Canberra Chiropractors at Hawker Chiropractic would love to help you. For more information or to make a booking please call Hawker Chiropractic on 62553711.