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Posted on 06-22-2011

At Chicago Spine and Joint Center we see many patients complaining of headaches. You may be a headache sufer too and are wondering what causes them and how to make them go away - for good. In today's blog post, Chicago chiropractor Dr. Nuesse addresses your most common questions about headaches:

headacheOne of the most common health problems that people experience daily is a headache. Oftentimes people feel that there is not much they can do to eliminate them, and therefore simply decide to not seek treatment. Pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil may help, however they will not permanently correct the cause of the problem. This article discusses the most common classifications of headaches and also briefly explains some of the most common types of treatments.

The overwhelmingly most common type of headache is the tension headache. A tension headache has no severe cause, but often causes severe pain. This type of headache occurs for two basic reasons. Firstly, muscles of the head and neck become tight and hypertonic, and secondly, because of the misalignment of the jaw and the cervical spine in the neck. Although many different causes of this type of headache exist, most often this misalignment/spasm complex is the result of improper posture or working long hours without taking breaks. The headache will often intensify as the day proceeds. Symptoms of this type of headache are often described as pain near the base of the skull, referring up the skull, possibly to the eye area. Most of the time the pain will be equal on both sides. Typically, numbness or strange sensations do not accompany the pain. Tylenol or Advil is usually sufficient in masking the pain. Taking pain relievers, however, will never fully remedy the root cause of the pain. The only way to truly get rid of tension headaches is to eliminate the misalignment/spasm complex. The simplest way to do this is to stop the offending activity. If your headache develops during work hours, then you may need to modify your work environment. Maintaining a proper posture along with taking breaks during the workday are simple ways to begin making a difference. If the headaches are continuous though, the next step is to consult a healthcare professional. Chiropractic offices have a great deal of success treating tension type headaches due to the fact that chiropractic services directly treat the cause of the pain. Eliminating muscle spasms through massage, exercise and other modalities, and postural misalignments through spinal manipulations, are very effective ways to eliminate the pain from tension headaches.

migraineThe second most common type of headaches is the migraine headache. These are often triggered by external stimuli. Most migraine headaches are vascular in nature. This means that abnormalities in blood flow are triggering the headache. Examples of these stimuli are different types of foods and a variety of fragrances. Migraine headaches differ greatly with respect to tension headaches. The pain during a migraine headache is often preceded by visual changes, ringing in the ears, or sensation changes in the face. The pain is usually only on one side of the head and may include having a throbbing quality. This throbbing sensation is due to the blood flow changes to the head. Often nausea and/or vomiting accompany the pain. Tylenol and Advil are often ineffective for these types of headaches, although conventional medicine may be helpful. Eliminating triggers, such as food allergies and sensitivities to different fragrances may be the most effective way of eliminating these types of headaches.

Cluster headaches are much less common than either migraines or tension headaches. Less is known about what causes them and the most effective treatments available. Usually they will have symptoms similar to those experienced during migraines. They differentiate from migraines though due to the fact that they come in "clusters", often with long periods of being symptom free in between. Cluster headaches may respond to pain relievers. However, the most effective treatment is chiropractic/physical therapy. The least common types of headaches may be due to some underlying disease such as tumor or hematoma. Although these types of headaches are rare, they need to be ruled out by a healthcare professional if the headache persists. Knowing the different classifications of headaches will inform you of the possible treatments for the pain. However, it is through a visit to your chiropractic physician that the pain will be most accurately diagnosed and the appropriate treatment for the pain determined. Seeking treatment is the first step to decreasing the likelihood of you being afflicted by this common health problem.

Call (312) 583-0061 to set up a consultation at Chicago Spine and Joint Care. Click here for our monthly website special for new patients.

More Great Articles by Dr. Matthew Nuesse

Did you see Dr. Nuesse's previous article on custom orthotics?


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Chicago chiropractor, Dr. Matthew Nuesse founded Chicago Spine and Joint Care to bring pain relief to residents of downtown Chicago and Loop area workers. We take great pride in making every patient feel comfortable in our office and making you an informed part of your health care and future wellness.

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