Headaches are unfortunately a part of life. In fact, more people complain about headaches than any other medical ailment. Even though many of us have been trained to pop an ibuprofen or migraine medicine when a headache hits, there are more conservative methods that can be used before medication is utilized. If we know what kind of a headache is taking place, then we also can know how to treat the headache. Conservative methods such a massage therapy and chiropractic medicine can be used on two common types of headaches.
A stress or tension headache is the most common type of headache. These are often chronic in nature and are characterized by pain in the temples or the back of the head. Stress and fatigue of the body often leads to tightening of the muscles in the jaws, the neck and the shoulders. This muscle tightness causes irritation of the nerves in the base of the skull called the suboccipital muscles. If the muscles of the jaw are the primary cause of the headaches, they are referred to as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) headaches. The best way to reduce the amount of stress and fatigue placed on the body is to get enough sleep and to have 30 minutes of mild aerobic exercise a day. If that does not help, a massage therapist or chiropractor can help. By relaxing the muscles in the jaw, the neck and the shoulders, the headaches should resolve or decrease in intensity and frequency.
A commonly misunderstood type of headache is the migraine headache. Many patients believe that a migraine is just a really bad headache. A migraine headache is characterized by a headache situated on only one side of the head. They are related to changes that take place in the size of the blood vessels feeding to the brain. Common triggers that change the blood vessel size causing a migraine include stress, allergies, stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights and smells, and diet. The best way to avoid the onset of a migraine headache is to avoid the triggers that set off the migraine. Avoiding foods containing chocolate, spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeine and sugar has been shown to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Hormone changes also can result in a migraine if the amount of serotonin in the nerves changes too much.
Pregnancy, menopause and menstrual cycle often wreak havoc on the hormone balance in the body. The nerves in the neck also play an important role in managing a migraine headache. When the bones of the neck are out of their proper alignment, the spinal nerves can become over stimulated. The nerves that control the dilation or constriction of the blood vessels in the brain will also become over stimulated. When the neck is allowed to move the way it was designed through chiropractic manipulation, then the nervous system does not become over stimulated and migraine headaches do not occur as often.
Although these two types of headaches are common, they do not need to be. There are conservative options that allow a patient to seek some relief in the intensity and frequency of their headaches without the use of drugs and surgery.